South African agency sells programme format to US

Start of May 2010, in what is believed to be a South African first, living brands agency Stimulii sold a TV format into the American market at the recent MIPTV content market in Cannes, France. “Ugly Betty” producer Ben Silverman, whose other credits include “The Office” and “The Biggest Loser”, acquired the rights to Stimulii’s “Thumb Wars”. Ben Silverman's newly formed company Electus is partnering with a newly formed U.S. producer-distributor, Engine Entertainment, on this interactive treasure hunt game show. The partners will package the hybrid reality competition format in the U.S. marketplace to involve network, advertising and digital integration. "Thumb Wars," which is originally a South African show, relies heavily on a smart phone to completely drive the game, which offers an untapped digital platform for advertisers and electronic applications. The game involves contestants using Smart Phone apps to receive clues for their quest in finding a hidden treasure. In each episode, four new teams of cross-generational contestants set off on a day-long adventure, following a series of hi-tech clues that explore the history of their country. Stimulii director Samantha Moon reports that the show has also generated interest from a further 20 international regions. “Some are even looking to acquire the existing 10 South African episodes. In addition, discussions are underway for a potential co-production of the series in South Africa for Italian TV.” The reality/game show, broadcast on SABC2 last year averaging a 31% overall market share in South Africa, was sponsored by Vodacom and created by Stimulii as a means to showcase and integrate the mobile operator’s cellular technologies. “Thumb Wars became proof that we could start with a brand and its objectives, and create high octane prime time entertainment that works for both the brand and the viewer alike.” Said Stimulii co-director Grazyna Koscielska.