Q&A: Instagram Girls. The first Russian reality show on Amazon
Last February one of the most popular Russian entertainment channels Friday! TV announced that it sold two seasons of its original show “Instagram Girls” to Amazon Prime Video. This format became the first Russian reality which is presented on the major international streaming platform.
Following the announcement, Alexandra Shutova met the head of the channel Nikolay Kartozia and the head of sales Anastasia Korchagina to talk about this historical international deal for the Russian TV industry. Nikolay, who is also the creator of the format, told what makes the show so special and successful, while Anastasia explained why “Instagram girls” has huge international interest not only as a format, but also as a ready-made product.
Mr. Kartozia, how did you come up with the idea for Instagram Girls? Are you an active Instagram user yourself?
At first, I came up with the idea of the Friday! TV channel and launched it. This is a channel about all the pleasures we can get from our life. Life is like an enormous Disneyland, where you want to try one ride after another. Last year, Friday! received 12 TEFI awards, many of them in the main categories, and became the most profitable TV channel in Russia. But the biggest success is a 45% growth of our channel amid 19% decrease of the TV market in the country. In other words, this is the only TV channel that is growing while television is quietly giving way to the Internet.
The secret is that I have deeply integrated bloggers and the new Internet language into the television. The audience of the Friday! TV channel almost completely coincides with the Instagram audience: these are the people who are searching for impressions and who live life to the fullest. Young women who pursue a career on Instagram are also a part of our viewers. I watched these girls for a long time: each of them is a separate state, with its own empress. They sometimes behave much more boldly and arrogantly than real super stars and I wanted to make a show that would bring them down to earth.
I am a philologist by education, that is why I am more into letters than pictures, and my social network is Facebook where one can clearly shares one’s thoughts. I also have an Instagram account and use it. Sometimes we do castings for our TV channel on this platform.
What makes the format attractive for your viewers? What type of people watch the show?
This is a show about Instagram goddesses, young women followed by millions of people around the world. They have everything - expensive things, jewelry, cars, beautiful bodies and a simple understandable philosophy: since we have millions of followers, then we are real stars. What if it’s all taken away? Cool cosmetics, expensive brands, photoshop, and most importantly - the ability to upload it all on Instagram. Can they survive in the world of ordinary people? Will they be able to go to a store, find a place to stay the night? This show is a social experiment: Instagram girls have to survive a week in a provincial Russian city without money, connections, and the habitual luxury. This is an ordinary life of many of our viewers, but for these girls it becomes a real survival show. This format has a bright multipurpose high-concept: a tough and ridiculous reality where the participants do not always save their faces, and it is interesting to watch.
How does the show help you increase your reach on the web and social media?
The project was actively supported in the social networks and caused an incredible boom there. Throughout the project, viewers had to choose the Instagram queen. Voting took place on social networks and on the channel’s website. Due to the high involvement of the participants themselves and interest in the project from the audience, we received record-high numbers on the Internet - 5 million votes. During the project, our social networks grew by almost 15% (+10 thousand followers on Instagram and 30 thousand on VKontakte).
Instagram Girls became the first Russian reality show sold to Amazon. What does this mean for you personally and also for the channel?
We set a precedent on the market. Reality is the second most popular genre in digital after TV series. Watching this trend a few years ago, I started working on the development and creation of my own reality shows, which we will promote on the international market. Friday! is currently the main television channel of reality shows in Russia.
At the moment, we are negotiating the sale of five of our reality shows with ten major players on the television and Internet markets. I think that throughout the year we will surprise the Russian market with messages about new deals.
Are you planning new episodes of the show?
Of course, it is a super popular show.
What kind of new projects are you currently working on and how are you adapting to the coronavirus pandemic?
I'm actually developing a post-coronavirus travel program called World for Free. The slogan of this program is "If it's free, then we’re buying."
After the coronavirus pandemic, people will have less money, it will become more difficult to travel, and the goal of my travelers will be to have a blast in a city without spending a dime. And then to show the audience these life hacks. After all, people will have less money, but we will show a way out - how to continue traveling.
Anastasia, Friday channel is the one of the biggest exporters of Russian entertainment and reality content. Can you mention some of your best-selling shows?
Friday! is the first and only television channel in Russia that specializes in producing popular reality shows. Our catalog contains more than 30 projects that oriented to the international market.
Each project is a high concept, an original idea. Most of the shows were created and developed by our creative producer and CEO Nikolay Kartozia. Almost the entire catalog has been sold abroad as ready-made. If we talk about formats, then the “Instagram Girls” is a subject of great interest of our partners, as this is a format that is integrated into the realities of modern life as much as it is possible. In the makeover show “Twins” we selected real twins from all over Russia and made their appearance unrecognizable. We also have the reality show “Inheritors” about the children of millionaires who lost their money and the usual benefits and have to survive in the realities of a simple life. And, of course, our iconic comedy series “Melodrama” with Sergey Burunov in the main role. We are currently in negotiations with major international platforms and production companies regarding the sales of the format.
What deals have you signed recently besides selling Instagram Girls to Amazon?
We have recently signed a deal with the Polish TV channel Puls for the sale of the “Instagram Girls” format. We are very proud of this deal! Poland is one of the most significant territories for us. The start of production of the program was scheduled for the summer of 2020, but due to the pandemic and the delay of production processes, it was postponed to the end of the year. Despite the fact that the market is full of ideas for reality, we are very flattered that our partners choose us.
Instagram Girls is the main talking point now. Was it easy to sell the show to Amazon? How long was the negotiation process?
We are always very careful in choosing partners for cooperation, especially when it comes to the distribution of products that we are proud of around the world. Therefore, there are always many specific points regarding commercial conditions, rights, terms and so on. And this deal is no exception, but it's always easier to sell a cool show!
Have you seen an increased interest in the show following the deal with Amazon? Are they more interested in the original episodes or the format rights?
We have recently started selling this format to the international market and note a high interest in it. Among other things, the show is interesting to millennials who usually do not watch TV but are an attractive audience for advertisers. From my experience, on TV adapted formats are always better welcomed by the audience.
As for ready-made, we really caught a hype: who does not want to look at the beauties from Russia in the original episodes of “Instagram Girls”?
Would the show be easy to adapt in other markets in terms of budget and production hours?
Casting is a thing that makes the show high-rated. We carefully selected the participants of our show across the entire Russian Internet environment, and these are bright, beautiful, diverse girls, each of them has hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram. The budget in this case is minor thing.