Israeli TV, which has been the darling of Hollywood ever since it brought “Homeland” and “In Treatment” to Tinseltown, has something new to sing about: a multi-format singing competition that pulls the audience directly into the action and could shake up reality TV as we know it.
Keshet’s “HaKochav Ha’Ba” (Rising Star), which premiered on Israel’s Channel 2 over Sukkot, takes the model perfected by “American Idol” and smashes the fourth wall between the viewing audience and all those crooning hopefuls on screen. Using a brand-new smartphone app that was developed by Keshet specifically for the show’s premiere, viewers at home can tune into the competition live and vote in real time, then watch their judgment play out before their eyes.
The voting began during the first episode, the minute the first contestant stepped on stage for auditions. To further integrate those on their sofas at home, Facebook photos of home voters flashed on an LED wall while the singer showed his chops in hopes of hitting enough “yes” votes – 70 percent of the total – to be introduced to the live studio audience.
On the air for only three weeks, the show has proved itself to be an undeniable success, pulling in 1.5 million viewers (in a country of 8 million people) in its latest episode and earning the second-highest ratings ever seen on an Israeli television show in the month of September. (The highest were for last year’s finale of Master Chef Israel, which is also a Keshet program.)
Keshet retired “Kochav Nolad,” the Israeli version of “American Idol,” this year, and is clearly hoping that “Rising Star” will both fill that gap in the local market and also be purchased as a format by television stations around the world. Former “Kochav Nolad” host Zvika Hadar has migrated to the new program, and is joined in judging by PR guru Rani Rahav, singing superstars Eyal Golan and Rita, and critically, the viewing audience.
“Rising Star” is like a graduated version of “The Voice” or “American Idol,” relying upon the same tried-and-true formula of celebrity hopefuls with big dreams and even bigger lungs. But by grabbing the audience and giving it direct control over the events on the screen, it ropes in home viewers with the power of both instant gratification and social media integration. Because audience members can only vote on “Rising Star” during its live broadcast, it also offers an excellent antidote to the perils of illegal downloading and file-sharing.
Keshet is hoping that the show will be a hot commodity when it’s shopped at MIPCOM, the entertainment industry’s annual content market event, in Cannes next week.
And it has good reason to be hopeful: The Hollywood Reporter, in a story this week, said of “Rising Star,” “Stellar ratings and unprecedented social media integration have made Keshet’s singing competition show the hottest new international format in reality TV.”
“These star and talent shows have been on the air for 10 years or so, and I think there’s a fatigue in the way things are done, with everyone having to watch one telephone number after another on screen and wait till the end for the result,” Keshet CEO Avi Nir told The Hollywood Reporter in that piece. “There’s no drama. The only supposed drama comes from the reaction of the judges, but that too becomes mundane and predictable. We wanted to put drama back into each and every vote.”