The Success Story of America’s Got Talent

Interview

For over a decade, Got Talent has been captivating viewers around the globe.

Trish Kinane explains FremantleMedia’s strategy for long-running formats and how a show can be kept attractive over the years.

Can you please remind us when America’s Got Talent (AGT) was created and the TV context?

Trish Kinane: When America’s Got Talent launched in 2006, the airwaves were full of comedy and drama with a few reality shows like American Idol, Survivor and Big Brother. The time was right for a new take on the talent show, featuring a wider range of acts than just singing, and AGT provided something different. It was an immediate hit and has consistently been the number one show of the summer in the US for many years and, according to the Guinness Book of Records, Got Talent is the world’s most successful reality show ever. Productions have been licensed in 69 territories and the show can be seen in 190 markets worldwide with more than 500 million global viewers.

The 10th season has been even more successful than the previous ones. In such a competitive environment, what is the added value of AGT?

T.K.: We at Fremantle know how to look after long-running franchises, and we make sure that, whilst keeping the core integrity of the format, we are constantly improving the production values of the show by freshening up familiar elements. This can range from how we tell the contestants’ stories, to the way their act is staged, and, even though the show is in its eleventh season, we are always looking at new ideas and new twists. The Golden Buzzer for example, where the judges and hosts can catapult an act straight into the live shows, has added real drama and excitement to the format. Season 11 has unearthed some amazing acts across the board, from singers to danger stunts to magicians. Viewers love to see talent, and, whilst it is harder to find in a competitive landscape, it is very much appreciated by viewers who love to support skill and expertise when they see it. The judges are also crucial to success. Simon Cowell joined the AGT panel this year, bringing his unique style. He knows how to spot talent and has great chemistry with Heidi, Mel and Howie, making the judges fun to watch.

How do you keep younger audiences attracted in a period when this target group watches less TV?

T.K.: This format allows for a lot of comedy which plays very well with the younger audience. The humour ranges from straight up comedians to eccentric quirky acts which provide a lot of fun and energy. We also have a lot of young performers this year, from 6 years old upwards. We have young singers, contortionists, magicians, and comedians who are hugely popular with the viewers.

How do you engage younger target groups and especially Millennials?

T.K.: The America’s Got Talent online audience has massively grown from a very low base to now becoming a social media dominant programme. In less than 4 years AGT has added over 3 million YouTube subscribers, 4 million Facebook fans, nearly 400,000 Twitter followers, and we are actively engaging our younger demographic. During our latest audition season, AGT held live online auditions on a new platform called You Now. It is a live streaming app that reaches teenagers, and broadcasts to a community of musicians and other talents. Through this new outreach effort we had over 1.3 million viewers over 13 audition hours, with nearly 5,000 people in the queue to audition.

Is there an AGT community?

T.K.: Season 11 of America’s Got Talent has over 1/2 billion video views across Facebook and YouTube, and is regularly in the top 2 of Nielsen Twitter broadcast TV ratings. There is definitely an AGT community. We hired an in-house digital producer to bridge the communication and content creation between the network and Fremantle, resulting in constant communication with our viewers. Plus our digital properties saw exponential growth.

What use do you make of digital platforms?

T.K.: Our judges and host Nick Cannon are engaging their fan bases, and orchestrating conversation between each other, the AGT brand, and contestants. Through live tweeting during shows, promoting tune-in messaging on all platforms, and filming digital exclusives for YouTube, our onscreen talent is leveraging their brand to talk to our fans.
Plus our digital team continually uses social media to go to where fans of the show live online, and to areas where we can build conversation to bring in a new audience.

How do you find new talents?

T.K.: It is harder than ever to find great talent and we have to make sure we cover all bases. The fact that AGT is the number one show of the summer attracts many contestants to apply, but there are lots of shows in competition with us, and we have to make sure that we explore all avenues when looking for talent. We target acts through showcases, online auditions, You Now open auditions, Skype, and specialist talent advisors as well as the more traditional open call auditions held in towns around the USA. We also encourage people to audition with new forms of acts – maybe hybrids between different forms of talent so that we are finding new ways to entertain the viewers.

The Got Talent brand is also successful worldwide. Despite cultural differences, are there still new territories to conquer?

T.K.: The Got Talent brand crosses cultural divides – there are people who sing, dance and entertain everywhere. We would love there to be a version of Got Talent in every territory and with production already in 69 countries, we are doing pretty well. Our newest launch will be in French speaking Africa in October.

Trish Kinane
President of Entertainment Programming
FremantleMedia North America

ABOUT FREMANTLEMEDIA

FremantleMedia is one of the largest international creators, producers and distributors of multi-genre content outside the US. With operations in 31 countries, FremantleMedia’s comprehensive global network is responsible for more than 10,000 hours of programming a year and distributes over 20,000 hours of content worldwide.

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