Global franchising, local customizing: The cultural economy of TV program formats
Contemporary international television offers a rich site for the investigation of matters concerning cultural adaptation. Over the past 20 years, a formalized, organized system has developed whereby program production knowledge can be borrowed from place to place for the re-creation of a television program in another territory. The TV program format is a kind of template or recipe whereby particular industry knowledges are packaged to facilitate this process of remaking. This article provides a trade background to the development of the TV format industry. It links the TV format's emergence to the practice of franchising, with its attendant cultural need to customize the format to suit local audience taste and outlook in a particular territory. This process of localization is examined on three levels using a model derived from translation theory. The article finds that the localization which occurs in such processes primarily involves the development of content that is nationally unexceptional through which audiences in a national territory can be addressed as a collective 'we'. Even beyond this detail, format adaptation raises crucial issues concerning globalization and nationalization, and these are addressed in the final part of the analysis.
Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies