New channel will champion local directors

Argentina’s state film commission Incaa is preparing to roll out Incaa TV, a satellite channel for local and foreign films, the first of its kind in Latin America.

Incaa will buy rights and beam the content via the country’s own satellite to set-top boxes, which are similar to the U.K.’s Freeview receivers.

The round-the-clock channel will be packaged with pubcaster Canal 7 — which airs professional soccer, a huge audience puller — along with the Ministry of Education’s net Encuentro and new culture, kiddie and sports channels, Incaa prexy Liliana Mazure tells Variety.

The package will be available free except for the one-time cost of the set-top box, which is expected to sell for $40 to $50.

Incaa plans to spend about $1.3 million on rights in the first year and less in subsequent years due to reruns, Mazure says.

Incaa TV, due to launch this year, is part of a larger effort to improve the distribution of locally made films, a sore spot in an industry that cranks out about 70 features a year.

While a handful snare festival accolades, like Juan Jose Campanella’s foreign language Oscar-winning crime thriller “The Secret in Their Eyes,” few manage to make much of a profit at the box office and have to rely on foreign sales and state subsidies to cover costs.

This limits financing for future projects in a country bubbling with directing talent, including Daniel Burman, Israel Adrian Caetano, Lucrecia Martel and Pablo Trapero, and a stream of upstarts such as Natalia Smirnoff, who debuted at this year’s Berlin Film Festival with “Rompecabezas” (Puzzle).

Incaa TV, the brainchild of helmer Tristan Bauer, who oversees Argentina’s state media systems, is an attempt to at least widen the reach of the films in Argentina, Mazure says. He also set up Encuentro.

Argentina’s 40 million population is served by just 800 theater screens in 140 locations — and local broadcasters air few homegrown films. Hollywood dominates about 80% of B.O. receipts and air time.

“People hear about films but they can never see them,” Mazure says.

Incaa TV will eventually offer paid-for video on demand over the Internet, she adds. “There are many screens we should be on.”

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