Novelas still dominate despite reality intrusion

MIAMI — While some reality shows may be criticized for pushing the envelope, in certain Latin American territories, homegrown fare might be better described as hyper-reality.

In Peru, videotapes featuring fugitive ex-security chief Vladimiro Montesinos with government officials, captains of industry and members of Congress have transfixed the public.

In Chile, the popular latenight news show “MediaNoche” on Television Nacional de Chile (TVN) has showcased former Pinochet sympathizers who spill the beans about the military dictatorship.

But regular reality shows are gaining some fans.

Brazil’s top-rated broadcast net TV Globo was to air the last episode of the second edition of its “Survivor”-type show, “No Limite 2,” on March 25. The 12 contestants were isolated in a tropical rain forest where they were competing for cash prizes.

Globo execs have maintained that its local hit “No Limite” was merely inspired by “Survivor,” but is not a copy.

Clearly there was no bad blood with CBS, since it struck a deal with Globo’s pay TV programming arm, Globosat, which bowed a subtitled version of the U.S. “Survivor” series on its variety channel Multishow on March 8. Globosat also purchased the rights to “Survivor II,” and the as-yet unproduced third installment.

No. 2 Argentine broadcaster Artear bowed a local version of “Survivor” last year, “Expedicion Robinson,” and will preem a second edition soon. It reached peak ratings of 27 points and sparked a frenzy for reality shows. Around 120,000 people applied for the second series of “Robinson” (compared with 5,000 for the first); 25,000 for “Gran Hermano,” No. 1 broadcaster Telefe’s “Big Brother”; and 6,000 for “El Bar,” a Swedish format.

The fervor is such that DirecTV Argentina (in which Artear parent Clarin is an investor) fought tooth and nail with rival regional satcaster Sky for the rights to “Robinson” and is bowing a premium Robinson channel. It will air daily three hours of the complete show, behind-the scenes footage as well as unedited scenes.

Leading Argentine broadcaster Telefe, owned by Endemol parent Telefonica Media, is producing “Gran Hermano.” But in addition to free TV, DirecTV has purchased the exclusive rights to air a live 24-hour transmission, starting March 10.

Sky got the rights to “El Bar,” which airs on America TV, Argentina’s No. 4 broadcaster.

In Mexico, neither Televisa nor TV Azteca has yet to launch a reality show.

Televisa did bow the U.S. “Survivor” this year, but it hasn’t caught on with auds.

“These types of shows have had a big impact in Anglo and European markets,” acknowledges TV Azteca director of channels Mario San Roman, who says the net’s own market research doesn’t bode well for the genre.

Novelas — essentially escapist fare — still dominate by far, and San Roman believes that Latino auds are likely turned off by the intrusion and modernist voyeurism of some reality formats.

Nonetheless, Azteca is studying some options, and he hinted that it may bow a new show idea in April.

What does appeal to Mexican auds are talkers, says San Roman, and both Azteca and Televisa have several.

However, both nets recently pulled their lurid reality talkers, “Hasta en las Mejores Familias” (Even in the Best Families) on Televisa and its TV Azteca rival “Cosas de la Vida” (Things of Life), apparently due to government pressure over their over-the-top content.

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