This month’s 5×5 Podcast features FRAPA board member Hayley Babcock, CEO and founder of Hayley Babcock Media Consulting, which operates at the intersection of the US and international entertainment business. With a CV that includes stints with global power players FOX, Sony and A+E Networks, Babcock is well placed to help her clients break into new markets and navigate change. “I use my creative and business experience to help clients to cross borders,” she says…
Hayley Babcock’s recipe for international success is pleasingly alliterative: “collaboration”, “continuous communication”, “clarity” and “constructive criticism” are all key ingredients. “In the international formats business, collaboration is everything,” she stresses in this month’s FRAPA 5×5 Podcast. “And to me, what makes an excellent collaborator is someone who communicates really honestly but respectfully.” That means being willing to give and take constructive feedback and change direction accordingly, she adds: “But it’s also knowing how to stand up for and give clear reasoning about what you believe should not change or should not be added or taken away.”
That ability to stand up for what she believes — not least her own instincts and talent — has been central to Babcock’s own success. She started her career “by working hard in radio” for a former TV exec, who then returned to television. Babcock subsequently asked him for a job and secured an interview with an executive producer, despite having no television experience. The producer asked her to come up with three segment ideas for his show: she gave him 12. “I was just myself and didn’t pretend that I was anything other than me,” she remembers. “And I got the job…” The take-away is that drive and self-belief can be as important as experience. “Just go for it,” she urges. “And don’t be anything but yourself.”
Babcock’s favourite formats range from unscripted classics Top Chef, Wife Swap and Come Dine with Me to scripted shows that have “such good DNA” they can be translated into other languages without losing value, viability — or viewers. She cites The Bridge — “an amazing, amazing crime drama”— which she has now enjoyed in several incarnations: “I watched the [Swedish/Danish] original with my husband, and we also watched the American version and loved it. And then we watched the British version and loved that too…”
Meanwhile, Babcock has succinct advice for junior format developers: do your homework. “You’ll lose me completely — and anyone else you may be pitching to — if your present an idea as brand new when it isn’t,” she says. All that does, she adds, is make it clear that you’ve made no effort to inform yourself about the business, which will not inspire trust in the person you’re pitching to, or persuade them that you’d be a reliable partner, capable of making smart decisions.
She illustrates her point with a laugh: “Imagine somebody coming in to you and saying, ‘I’ve got this great idea: we take two teams of people who don’t know each other and put them on a deserted island. And then we make them do physical and mental tasks, and they form alliances and vote each other out and the last one standing is the winner…’ Well, you might as well just leave now!”
5 questions in about 5 minutes, find Hayley’s and other editions of the FRAPA 5×5 Podcast here.