Keshet International, the distribution arm of Israel’s Keshet Media Group, has been in operation since 2000 but has in recent years generated significant worldwide interest, generally acknowledged to be fuelled by success of the award-winning Homeland (the U.S. format of the Israeli drama series Prisoners of War), which has since won six Primetime Emmys and five Golden Globes.
Q: What makes Keshet different?
Shtruzman: Everything we do in Keshet is real and original. We call it “edgy mainstream”. Homeland is absolutely edgy mainstream because in a way, it’s another American spy warfare show. It’s very controversial, with a lot of edgy points and controversial characters. It’s very critical about Americans but still, it is a very big show in America.
Anything we do is slightly off the mainstream and slightly different. Israel is very liberal and almost extremely free, and we’re surrounded by countries who do not necessarily love it this way. We create content which is educated and slightly edgy, but good and compelling enough to attract the audience. Keshet’s performance in ratings is famously outstanding. We never go below 20% in ratings for prime time. We have a very big slate of scripted and non-scripted shows. Those successful shows are the shows we create and distribute to other countries.
Q: Despite the many entertainment formats and scripted dramas that are coming out of the UK and the U.S., why do you think there is still interest for Keshet’s content?
Shtruzman: We don’t undermine content from the U.K and the U.S. It’s great content. Israel is getting interest because it’s new. What happened in the last few years is that the Israeli market realised that there’s a market beyond Israel. It’s also partly because of the fact that more and more production companies in China are buying formats.
When we sell the shows (finished programmes), we sell the formats. We have great shows, which we can condense to a format and sell it to other countries and reproduce in their own local language. Development of the formats market, in a way, opened up for the Israelis to sell their shows. If we want to grow, the only way to do it is to look beyond your own market. We do the same with our content.
Q: What do you get a sense of what Asian buyers are looking for?
Shtruzman: In Asia, it’s diverse. You can’t really approach Asia as one entity. In general, I can see that there’s still some reluctance in Asia to do scripted formats because it is more complicated and expensive. When it comes to drama, Asia prefers to do their own content. It seems like reality shows and FOX entertainment shows are now in demand.