Opens up a more flexible business dynamic

BUENOS AIRES — Argentina’s Telefe Intl. wants to boost business by giving buyers the final rewrite.

Telefe, the third biggest sales outfit in Latin America, is marketing formats for untested and even unfinished TV series that it will tailor to suit key markets, like those in Europe.

The idea is to sell the concept of a program and then work with the buyer on crafting it to their needs, even reworking scripts or endings.

“If we don’t have the product they want, we can adapt (it) — as long as the buyer likes the genre, idea and story,” says Fernando Varela, Telefe’s director of international business. “The writer can adapt it to the different idiosyncrasies of each market.”

Varela says this willingness to work alongside buyers will give Telefe an edge in testing markets to see what works, while capitalizing on the large crop of writers in Argentina.

Among the company’s formats is a gameshow devised by Telefe’s “Minute to Win It” host Alejandro (Marley) Wiebe through his Nanuk Prods. Set in an airport, the show pits contestants against each other in games like guessing the weight of suitcases and answering questions to win prizes.

Telefe also has formats for telenovelas and series from CTV Contenidos, run by actor and TV host Gabriel Corrado. One is “Amores cruzados,” about a man who takes on the life of another and falls for his wife, while “Escuela de seduccion” is the story of a man who starts a business on how to seduce women.

“These are stories that are easy to adapt,” Varela says.

With this model, he says, shows can be tested in international markets and then find a spot on the airwaves in Argentina.

The nation has a bevy of indie producers, the biggest of which have output deals with leading nets Artear-El Trece and Telefe. This crowds out smaller players and limits deals for even veteran players.

“If Telefe doesn’t have space, but a foreign broadcaster does, then we will test a program on a foreign screen,” Varela says.

To help market the formats, Telefe is developing pilots using computer animation, he says.

Guillermo Borensztein is spearheading the push, which Varela expects will help build sales despite lower demand due to the global economic crisis.

“It’s not easy to sell to Europe today,” he says, “but we are going to continue taking (shows) there like the formats.”

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