La casa del mar

Hollywood studios, behemoth broadcasters, telecoms pile into original series in Latin America

BUENOS AIRES — Rarely have so many major players, from Hollywood studios to Latin American TV kingpins, spoken so concisely and fast about their TV drama co-production interests. Kicking off Fiction Factory, and with it Ventana Sur’s inaugural TV market, a 90-minute carousel of execs from Disney, Sony, Fox, HBO, Turner, Viacom, Discovery, DirecTV, History Channel, Televisa and ClaroVideo drilled down Wednesday in Buenos Aires on their TV series production interests, priorities and needs to an audience of TV producers from all over Argentina. Orchestrated by Argentina’s INCAA Film Institute, the session proved illuminating. Here are 10 things we learned about how Hollywood and beyond will be linking with Latin America to produce often radically new series for the region and the world:

1. YES, IT’S A REVOLUTION

“This is a historic moment. Two or three years ago, this didn’t exist: So many majors, companies trying to connect with the creative community in Argentina and the whole continent,” said Fox Networks Group’s Jorge Stamadianos. Just a couple of years ago, Stamadianos added, producers would have been fighting to get to the TV executives at Fiction Factory. Now the boot is on the other foot. “We’re fighting to get to you.”

2. ”BLACK IS THE NEW PINK”

As The Wit’s Virginia Mouseler had it, presenting a The Wit fiction TV showcase at October’s Mipcom trade fair in Cannes. Globo and Televisa certainly haven’t given up on the day job of making and exporting telenovelas. But reaching out to a YA audience in Latin America, they, Hollywood studios, and new SVOD operators are all also looking for far shorter series. “70 episodes is our maximum, but 10 is the ideal,” ClaroVideo’s Pablo Iacoviello said at Ventana Sur. History Channel is looking for “short series, no more than four episodes or TV specials,” added Lucas Rojas, director of original productions for History Channel, A&E, Lifetime y H2 in Latin America. Much new Latin American drama, moreover, is made up of thrillers, often with a noirish tinge. “Brotherhood,” a ClaroVideo hit, is “a semi-psychological thriller,” said Iacoviello. “Jardin de Bronce,” HBO Latin America’s new big bet from Argentina, is a “cop thriller with a psychological heft,” HBO Latin America’s Nestor Hernandez said at the panel.

3. WALKING THE WALK

The execs came to Ventana Sur to talk the talk, show their faces, and mark their operations out, delineating their distinctive program needs. But they are also walking the walk. En passant, the panelists mentioned some of the key new TV series in production or development in Latin America.

Some highlights:

*HBO Latin America and Pol-Ka are co-producing “Jardin de Bronce,” a missing daughter thriller starring Joaquin Furriel and Norma Aleandro, directed by Hernan Goldfrid (“Thesis on a Homicide”) and Pablo Fendrik (“Ardor”).

*Fox is producing “Run, Coyote, Run,” an immigration comedy, directed by Mexico’s Gustavo Loza.

*Sony Pictures Television is producing “El Comandante,” about Hugo Chavez.

*Among multiple productions in Argentina, Turner Latin America’s TNT is linking to Argentina’s Pol-ka for a new series, “La Fragilidad de los Currpos,” directed by Miguel Cohan, said Turner’s Mariano Cesar.

4. NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL

Hollywood studios have different TV production histories in Latin America, so different current strategies. “We’re going to be the most diverse distributor in the region, and as such we are going to be open to anything and everything,” said Selina Nederhand, Sony Pictures Television VP, sales and distribution. That means: “Short form, long-form, premium, non-premium, series, mini-series, as long as we think they’re commercially interesting, and as long as we think our clients are interested,” she added. Disney in contrast has a history of local retreads – “Desperate Housewives” reversions, for example – and hugely successful teen novelas such as “Violetta,” said Javier Castany, at The Walt Disney Company Latin America. But it is now moving into original bio series after the runaway success of “Hasta Que Te Conoci.”

5. MEXICO, COLOMBIA, BRAZIL: THE NEW TV MARKET HEARTLAND

In take-up for established cable operators and new OTT services, Mexico, Colombia and Brazil look like the heartland of Latin America’s new TV market. They are ClaroVideo’s biggest markets, and for History Channel, A&E, Lifetime y H2, said Rojas. Argentina is highly valued, however, for its creativity.

Numbers talk. Despite economic headwinds, Latin American pay TV video subscribers will grow 17.4% from second quarter 2016 through to the close of 2020 to reach 70.4 million, said an IHS Technology report. But only Mexico saw significant gains in second quarter 2016. Iacoviello said ClaroVideo series should ideally have cast from its “most relevant” territories – Mexico, Colombia, Brazil.

6. IT’S A BIG BOYS’ (AND GIRLS’) WORLD

ClaroVideo is working with studios and their cousins: Fox, Sony, Turner, The History Channel (on Intl. Emmy winner “The Jesuit”). Only on a “very few occasions,” has it joined with a local production companies, such as Manolo Cardona’s 11:11 on “Brotherhood,” to produce a TV series. Several execs advised young producers to team with bigger partners when approaching networks on original productions.

7. BLIM

Watch Blim, Televisa’s new OTT service, which launched in February 2016. Of all the panelists at Fiction Factory, Televisa Networks’ Marcelo Brescia was the most eager to emphasise that Blim would work directly with local producers creating local TV series. “We want local product, for the subscriber in Argentina to consume its product and see its actors,” Brescia said, adding Blim, now partnering with leading lights of the Mexican film industry on TV series, was also working with potential partners in Argentina and Chile.

8. YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT

Born of late in TV markets dominated by behemoth broadcast nets such as Televisa and Globo which produce in-house their telenovelas, Latin America’s indie sector is very young, lacks the accrued capital to cash flow its overheads, let alone productions. But it is getting what it needs: TV operators which do not insist on taking all rights to shows, fully financing fictions, making it impossible for production houses to own at least part of the shows they create down the years, aggregating corporate value. Rather than offering full commissions, DirecTV exec Juan González del Solar said the TV operator is keen to work as a co-producer. It co-financed the first season of “La Casa del Mar” (pictured) a milestone thriller hit, and took over most financing responsibilities on the second season. In Latin America’s new TV world, some players are actively looking to offset risk, partnering on a multiple-window release schedule.

The onus is now on production houses to step up to the table with their own financing.

9. THE NEW TV MARKET IS STILL BUILDING

ClaroVideo has yet to launch in Argentina. It is only now ‘looking to do something in Brazil,” Iacoviello said.

10.THE FEEDING FRENZY

In Latin America, “there’s an evolution towards up-scale pay TV market-style fiction, says The Wit’s Bertrand Villegas. But it’s not only TV operators which are piling into such productions. An often young generation of producers are hugely enthusiastic about upscale TV fiction creation. Stamadianos recounted how Fox Producciones Originales put out a call for applications last year. It received 1,900 submissions, could only choose two: “Medio Zombies” and “Isla Negra.”

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