Weak Peso Slashes Mex Market

Latin American shoppers have traditionally favored U.S. action series and cartoons, but lately, European and Japanese product has been capturing attention and posting sometimes startling ratings.

The biggest change in the Latin-American landscape, however, is Mexico’s slashed purchasing power, with the upshot for now being a general tightfistedness.

TV powerhouse Televisa, which has been hacking costs for several months, isn’t planning to send anyone to Monte Carlo. And as of press time, No. 2 web Azteca was considering canceling its reservations, as well.

Across Latin American markets last year, the big import hit was Spain’s shameless gameshow, “El Gran Juego de la Oca.”

Another pan-regional favorite is “The Simpsons,” often top 10 in Argentina, top 20 in Venezuela, and the top U.S. import in Uruguay, though it’s fading in Mexico.

Animated product has had a strong history in Latin America, with characters such as Pedro Picapiedra (Fred Flintstone) identified by Latin kids as Latinos. Mexico’s top-rated import in November was Columbia’s “Gobots.” Also playing well, Japan’s “Saint Seiya: The Legend of the Hot-Blooded Boys.”

Telenovelas bought from Latin neighbors top charts in Venezuela and Peru, but less so in Mexico and Brazil, where local production is strong. Among English-language product, action series still reign.

Seven of Venezuela’s November top 10 imports were action series, headed by “MacGyver” and “Mission: Impossible,” while “Kung Fu: The Legend Continues” reels in young auds.

The blond brats of “Beverly Hills, 90210” perform well in fair-skinned Argentina, but less well in other Latin countries, where audience identification is weaker. “Melrose Place” has gained ground in a few arenas, and Mexico’s Azteca has begun trying its luck with two French teen-oriented series: “Helene et les garcons” and “Premier baiser.”

Televisa has cut back on original programming and started repeating more telenovelas. However, it recently launched in-house versions of two U.S. veterans, “Wheel of Fortune” and “Sesame Street.” It’s too soon to say whether the gameshow will work and prompt further format purchases.

When the Mexicans start reaching for their checkbooks again, they’ll have advertisers on their minds. “We’re focussing on the twenty/thirtysomethings – those with acquisitive power,” says Azteca chief buyer Arturo Escalante.