‘Formats are king!’ or so declares the trade publication TV Formats Weekly. Indeed there are solid grounds for such claims regarding the current place of this type of programming in television schedules around the world. Formats are perceived to be highly effective in mitigating commercial uncertainties brought about by multi-channelling, and the social uncertainties associated with cultural mobility and de-territorialization. However, their ubiquity also presents us with an interesting geo-cultural paradox. As an industrial commodity, formats have a highly mobile, readily transferable quality. However, as a social and cultural artefact, they can take on a form that is specific to the particular community for which they are adapted. In this article, we explore the characteristics of these multi-layered geographic interrelationships and consider the conceptual value (and limitations) of some of the key terms around which the role and function of formats have been understood.