Soccer plays well for Argentine network

BUENOS AIRES — Based on its success with soccer, Argentine pubcaster Canal 7 is seeking to build a bigger audience after lagging behind its private competitors for years.

On Oct. 25, the fifth-ranked net’s audience numbers surged with an afternoon match between archrivals Boca Juniors and River Plate. It pulled a 30.6 rating, in line with the hottest primetime series on TV, and dominated the day with an overall 13.6 rating, better than the 11.1 of leader Telefe.

It was a result not seen in more than two decades — and something that’s posing a challenge to private nets.

The government in August acquired rights to pro soccer for $155 million a year, bringing to an end a contract with a private company that aired most matches on cable and pay-per-view. Canal 7 is now airing games for the first time since 1992, marketing them under the slogan, “Soccer for All.”

This is a latest effort by the pubcaster to improve its image, a strategy that is catching the attention of indie producers.

But soccer hasn’t been the only programming that has added to the pubcaster’s shine. Alejandro Suaya, a partner at Rosstoc, which is producing the sitcom “Ciega a citas” (Blind Date) for primetime on the pubcaster, says of Canal 7: “The programming is organized and the hours are respected. There’s more room for fiction.”

Tristan Bauer, who oversees Canal 7 as prexy of the National Public Media Network, previously ran feevee Encuentro, to which Rosstoc supplied programming. Under him, the net has scored critical attention with such fiction programs as “Blind Date” and Hector Babenco-director prison series “Carandiru, la carcel del terror” (Carandiru, the Prison of Terror) as well as award-winning comedy program “Peter Capusotto y sus videos” (Peter Capusotto and His Videos).

“We are not in the ratings race,” says Hugo Barcia, an institutional relations manager at Canal 7. “We are offering quality content that we think people want to see.”

In the pipeline are two historical series with big names attached, including Juan Jose Campanella, director of the hottest film of the year at the box office, “The Secret in Their Eyes”; and Rodrigo de la Serna, who co-starred in “The Motorcycle Diaries.”

Israel’s Dori Media Group (“Blind Date”), a leading indie producer in Argentina, also may produce kiddie series “Mia, mi amiga invisible” for the pubcaster.

“Canal 7 is getting better ratings now with soccer, and it seems a good match” for fiction, says Michal Nashiv, president and CEO of Dori Media in Argentina. ‘Blind Date’ is a major anchor for them, and they are treating it this way. They are advertising it well.”

Even so, it generally takes years to build an audience, and Hugo Di Guglielmo, a media expert in Buenos Aires, says Canal 7 “has improved but it still has a long way to go.”

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