STV Studios and NBCUniversal have signed a series development deal for an innovative reality format, The Underdog, in the US.

The format, created by STV Studios label Primal Media and co-owned by GroupM Motion Entertainment, sees a cast of conventionally popular contestants – all with big online followings and a knack for influencing people – compete in a popularity contest. However, among the group is an underdog that no one is expecting. He’s an ordinary guy, has almost zero followers online, and is unfazed about trying to be the most popular.

None of the cast, including the underdog, know that a group made up of TV’s most iconic reality stars are living next door and controlling the game by setting tasks, introducing jaw-dropping format twists, mastering the art of manipulation, and using all that they’ve learnt about reality shows to make sure the underdog wins – at any cost.

The US rights were secured by Toby Gorman, President, Universal Television Alternative Studio (UTAS) and Ed Havard, SVP, Unscripted Programming, Universal International Studios (UIS) for development at NBC led by Corie Henson. Both UTAS and UIS are divisions of Universal Studio Group.

The deal was brokered on the STV Studios side by Creative Director of International Development, Josephine Brassey, and Commercial Director, Camilla Cope, who recently joined the team as part of STV Studios’ acquisition of Greenbird Media.

Josephine Brassey, STV Studios’ Creative Director of International Development, said: “Primal Media have created another truly genius format which puts a unique new spin on the reality genre, so we’re delighted to be working with Toby, Ed and the talented team at NBCUniversal on developing it for the US market.

“This deal is the first secured by our newly combined business and Camilla and I are excited about the potential of our international growth strategy.”

Mat Steiner and Adam Wood, Managing Directors of Primal Media, said: “Pulling the curtain back on the reality genre has been such fun, but the most revealing thing about this format is the emotional rollercoaster ride that the cast goes on. We’re sure it’ll be the same for the viewers!”

Toby Gorman, President, Universal Television Alternative Studio, added: “This development partnership cements our ambitions at Universal Studio Group to partner with some of the best content creators on shows with global scale and appeal. This is such a unique reality format that really lends itself to adaptation for the US market, so we’re super excited to bring it to life for NBC.”

A UK version of the format is currently in the works for E4 produced by Primal Media and GroupM Motion Entertainment. The working title is Alan Must Win.

Outside of the US, All3Media International has been appointed as the show’s global partner. STV Studios, Scotland’s biggest production company, was recently named Production Group of the Year at the 2023 Edinburgh TV Awards.

Michael Burns

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