The goal is to gradually increase the amount of locally produced programming and grow the footprint through acquisitions or startup opportunities.
NBCUniversal previously had a 50-50 joint venture with Ole, headed by CEO Enrique Cusco, to manage the E! Entertainment Latin America channel. Under the new deal, Ole has swapped in its equity in that channel for a smaller stake in the larger group that encompasses E! as well as the Universal Channel, Studio Universal, Syfy and Telemundo Internacional.
Those channels will continue to be distributed in the region through HBO Latin America Group, a joint venture that Ole runs with HBO parent Time Warner. Ole has a similar partnership with A+E Networks. Ole’s expertise in the market and the clout that it brings to the table with distributors by representing the HBO-Cinemax and A+E channels is what drew NBCUniversal International to go deeper into business with Cusco’s firm. Ole and NBCU (and Comcast) have been partners in E! Latin America for 20 years.
“Enrique has built these businesses up from scratch,” said Kevin MacLellan, chairman of NBCUniversal International. “He brings an instinct for the business and on-the-ground knowledge of the main Latin American territories that is far beyond what we would have on our own.”
NBCU and Ole had discussed pooling resources on the five channels for nearly three years before setting the terms this year. One exception to the deal is the distribution of Telemundo Internacional in Mexico, which remains controlled by Televisa, the nation’s dominant broadcaster.
As the NBCU channels become more established, there will be greater investment in regionally specific programming, MacLellan said. Ole’s team will help scout out prime opportunities and the best production partners. There may also be also acquisition or startup prospects in the future that Ole can help identify.
Latin America is a big focus for NBCUniversal because the region is projected to see healthy growth in TV advertising and affiliate fees for cable channels over the next decade. NBCU like other large media conglomerates are looking well beyond U.S. shores for earnings drivers in the coming years. Outside of the Ole deal, NBCU also has a growing partnership in Brazil with that nation’s largest TV player, Globo.
“Our commitment to Latin America is very strong,” MacLellan said. “We have a very strong belief that Latin America will have significant growth in linear and non-linear television in the next five to 10 years.”