Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2019

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Communication Studies

First Advisor

Zajacz, Rita

First Committee Member

Havens, Tim

Second Committee Member

Hingstman, David

Third Committee Member

McLeod, Kembrew

Fourth Committee Member

Sosale, Sujatha


This dissertation examines the process of commodifying television formats (e.g., Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Survivor, Big Brother, and Idol) from television show ideas into global commodities. Instead of assuming that a format has always been a commodity, this dissertation seeks to understand the historical process of the transformation from a concept into a commodity. Specifically, it answers three questions: a) What is the process whereby a format obtains property status and becomes a copyrighted work? b) Who enables the transnational movement of a format, and how does that happen? and c) How do people recognize which formats are more valuable than others? To answer these questions, by articulating the distribution of value as a theoretical framework, this dissertation closely examines institutions of format distributions: legal frameworks for copyright, multinational corporations, and global television markets. Through historical analyses, this dissertation reveals that institutions of distribution gave rise to three aspects of the commodity form of formats: legality, functionality, and materiality. The development of these three aspects shows that a format became a commodity, rather than simply a method of copying television programs, only after 2004. This dissertation contends that the long history of copying television show ideas was punctuated by the emergence of the commodity form of formats, distinguishing the present state of global format trade from the previous one.


commodity form, distribution of value, format copyright, MIPFormats, super-indie, television formats


viii, 233 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 201-233).


Copyright © 2019 Joonseok Choi

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Communication Commons