Natpe: HBO Latin America Launches Direct Distribution Operation for International Markets

Move reflects the volume and market potential of HBO Latin America series

Seeking a bigger distribution punch for its high-end lineup, HBO Latin America has launched its own direct international sales and distribution operation, HBO Latin America Licensing, which will present at Natpe its lineup, including some of the most praised and prized high-end TV series from Latin America.

Featuring Intl. Emmy Award winner “Sr. Avila,” “The Bronze Garden,” HBO Latin America’s biggest 2017 ratings hit, and classic “Profugos,” showrun by Pablo Larraín (“Neruda,” “Jackie”), the HBO Miami-based unit is headed by Xavier Aristimuño, HBO Latin America vice-president, licensing. He reports to Francisco Smith, HBO Latin America president of distribution and media development.

The launch of a new sales division handling 100% of HBO Latin America series comes as the company has sought to leverage the reach of its standalone services around the world for a more simultaneous roll-out of its top-shows. “The Bronze Garden” bowed June 25 on Latin America HBO and HBO Go, on HBO Nordic and HBO España from June 25 and on HBO Latino from June 30.

HBO Latin America Licensing is a sign of the times. “With original and, specifically, local original content becoming increasingly important to both SVoD services and traditional pay TV, regional control of production, commissioning and distribution starts to make perfect sense once scale is reached,” said Guy Bisson, at London’s Ampere Analysis.

The move into direct sales reflects the growth of HBO Latin America’s catalog, the expanded potential market for foreign-language series around the world and those of HBO Latin America in particular, and the growing complexity of the international TV sales business.

“We concentrate on quality, not quantity,” Aristimuño argued. But with most HBO Latin America series now returning for up to four seasons as the service continues to launch new dramas, the volume of HBO Latin America original productions has grown to create a catalog of an average of 400 hours in series, as well as talk shows, documentaries and animations.

Also, HBO Latin America is ramping up production in some territories, HBO Brasil unveiling this March 14 shows for 2017 – taking in fiction and non-fiction series, feature docs and its first talk show – the largest annual package since the company began to produce in the country in 2005.

“World markets such as Asia, Africa and part of Europe have experienced broadcast success with a few leading Latin telenovelas, with a few Latin theatrical classic and modern movies, but are today in search of superior Latin series,” said Aristimuño.

Direct HBO streaming services have multiplied around the world. In Europe, for example, HBO Nordic launched in 2012, HBO España in 2016. These and HBO Central Europe will continue to have first-option priority on HBO Latin American series.

HBO continues to do business with HBO series carriers that air its flagships on linear channels, HBO Go or HBO Now, such as “Game of Thrones,” and have cherry-picked HBO Latin American series in the past, most notably the now classic HBO Latin America originals “Epitafios,” a dark crime thriller made with Argentina’s Pol-Ka Producciones, and Pablo Larraín show-run “Profugos,” a family drug cartel action thriller with political overtones aired over 2011-14.

Beyond them, however, many traditional free-to-air networks are “ever-more interested in programming series,” Aristimuño argued.  “People used to say that our series were almost too sophisticated or culturally complex for free TV audiences. They have seen that audiences have an increasing appetite to enjoy the level of quality of all our leading series.”

HBO Latin America’s prime target will be operators which are relatively new for some world broadcasters in all pay TV, free TV and VOD platforms, Aristimuño commented.  HBO will take on more staff targeting specific territories as new business expands.

Original series from HBO Latin American to be presented to buyers at Natpe cut three ways, he argued: Police/detective and crime drama-thrillers, such as the action-driven “Prófugos” and “The Bronze Garden,” a missing-daughter drama-thriller and a big-final-twist tale of extraordinary obsession shot with cinematic sophistication; sensual feminine dramas; and what Artimuño called “urban, deeper tales,” driving deeper into characters’ often complex minds.

CREDIT: HBO Latin America

Natpe’s line-up also features the final Season 4 of “Sr. Avila,” about an insurance salesman who is also a psychopath, moonlighting as a hitman. Produced by HBO Latin America and Billy and Fernando Rovzar’s Lemon Films, last November it won an Intl. Emmy Award in the Non-English Language U.S. Primetime Program category.

Of sensual feminine dramas, all from Brazil, “O Negocio,” now airing Season 4, turns on three women who launch an escort business as if it were a cutting-edge business brand. “It’s very up-to-date, has humor and a powerful message, dealing with powerful women with a common business vision to change the business behind their chosen profession as escorts,” said Aristimuño.

Winner this month of the Argentine Cable TV Assn. award for best general interest program, “Magnifica 70” is set on Sao Paulo’s raunchy sort core ‘70s independent movie scene; launched this fall, nourish drama-thriller “The Secret Life of Couples” embroils a sex therapist, played by series creator Bruna Lombardi, in big business corruption.

In the “urban and deeper” category, drama “PSI” turns on a psychologist who gets increasingly involved in his patients’ cases in megalopolis Sao Paulo.

Based on an Argentine comic book, and starring Leonardo Sbaraglio (“Wild Tales”), “The Hypnotist” is HBO Latin America’s first bilingual series, being shot in Spanish and Portuguese. Co-produced by Rodrigo Teixeira’s RT Features, which holds down an emerging filmmaker production alliance with Martin Scorsese, the phantasmagoric period drama is one of two Latin American dramas made available to HBO’s U.S. clients from December in a move announced by HBO CEO Richard Plepler at Mipcom – to introduce domestic customers to some of HBO’s most acclaimed international dramas.

CREDIT: HBO Latin America

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