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Latin America: Benefits of insider trading

Sales of popular novelas to competing nets keeps business brisk

Latin American nets will be descending on the National Assn. of Television Program Executives confab with full battalions of up to a dozen execs each. With the worst of their economic crises behind them, Latino webs will be coming to the annual Las Vegas event with looser purse strings.

However, that doesn’t mean they are going on freewheeling acquisition sprees. “The Latin buyers have become much more selective of the product they buy,” says Rose Marie Vega, Alliance Atlantis VP of distribution, Latin America. “They’re seeking quality product that serve as an alternative to what they don’t produce.”

As prolific producers of telenovelas (Latino soap operas of 100-plus episodes), these nets have made a brisk business of selling their inhouse soaps to each other.

Recent years have seen a greater interchange of product and format pickups within the region. These pickups are inexpensive morning and afternoon space fillers for many. Colombia’s RCN has sold “La Costena y el Cachaco” to Uruguay’s Canal 4 Monte Carlo, while TVN Chile airs Venevision’s “Angel Rebelde.”

Venezuela’s RCTV has seen its two novelas “Trapos intimos” and “La mujer de Judas” bring in solid morning ratings for Telefutura, the fledgling sister channel of leading U.S. Hispanic net Univision. Mexico’s leading net Televisa produces 70% of its own programming.

“Our inhouse production grew 12% over last year,” says programming VP Alberto Ciurana. Televisa produces reality shows with partner Endemol, which has similar joint ventures in Brazil and other countries.

Second-ranking net TV Azteca produces some 8,000 hours a year and an additional 1,000 for its U.S. net, Azteca America. While Televisa has an output deal with Warner Bros., Universal and DreamWorks, Azteca has one with Disney.

In this youth-dominated region, where the Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and Discovery Kids rank among the top five cable/satellite channels, local nets have a voracious appetite for kids programming. Televisa’s Canal 5, one of its four channels, airs 14 hours of children’s programming every day.

Televisa execs led by Guillermo Canedo, head of business affairs, and director general Fernando Perez-Gavilan will be trawling the convention floors for some high-profile movies and series from the U.S. Televisa currently airs “CSI,” “24” and “Law & Order.”

A sales team led by international sales director Carlos Castro will be flogging Televisa’s latest telenovelas, “La madrastra” (The Stepmother), “Contra viento y marea” (Against All Odds) and kid-targeted “Suenos y caramelos” (Sweet Dreams). Televisa’s telenovelas and soccer continue to score highest among Mexican auds. Among Televisa’s top-rated novelas are “Mariana de la noche,” followed by “Rubi” and “Rebelde.”

TV Azteca has reached out to neighbors for new formats. Azteca’s best-performing novela is Telefe Argentina’s comic novela “Los Roldan,” renamed “Los Sanchez,” and “Las Juanas,” a novela about five sisters named Juana, from Colombia. Its top reality show is “El Rival mas debil” (The Weakest Link), from FremantleMedia.

Acquisitions head Pedro Lascurain will be on the lookout for action movies and Hollywood blockbusters, gameshows and animated programs. “The Simpsons” still reigns over Azteca’s acquired programming. A sales team led by international sales VP Marcel Vinay will be selling single-episode dramatic skeins such as “La vida es una cancion” and “Lo que callamos las mujeres” as well as novelas led by “La otra mitad del sol.”

In Argentina, “The Simpsons” on leading web Telefe dominates the ratings among imports. But Telefe’s sitcom “Los Roldan” draws the highest aud share of up to 70%, followed by Artear’s novela “Padre Coraje.”

Telenovelas from Mexico and Brazil are being snapped up to fill up programming during Argentina’s summer (winter in the Northern Hemisphere) lull. A favorable dollar-peso ratio has spurred more exports from Argentina’s TV producers. Foreign sales account for as much as 50% of a producer’s income compared with 5% in the 1990s, when the peso was at a one-to-one parity with the dollar.

With more cash to spare, Argentina’s nets are forking out for more product — mainly novelas — from Mexico, Brazil and Colombia.

Six execs led by prexy Luis Villanueva and international sales veep Mario Castro will rep Venevision Intl., the sales unit of Venezuela’s Grupo Cisneros. Aside from a slew of new telenovelas, company will be selling “Celebridades,” a talkshow hosted by Viviana Gibelli, and reality skein “Te llego la suerte.”

In Brazil, news program Jornal Nacional and telenovela “Senhora do destino” from market behemoth Globo TV are the biggest ratings pullers in this Portuguese-speaking nation. Globo’s buying team — led by Roberto Buzzoni, Paula Miranda and Cristina Reis — will be on the lookout for movies as well as new formats, reality shows and toons.

Second-ranking SBT airs Portuguese-dubbed novelas imported from Televisa, but also remakes some Televisa novelas with consultants from the Mexican web.

Other nets buy formats of reality shows, especially from Endemol and Fremantle. TV Globo has a joint venture with Endemol.

Brazil’s No. 4 net, Bandeirantes, recently bought the format to Artear Argentina’s popular musical soap “Floricienta,” only the second time since 1995, when rival SBT adapted another Argentinean soap, “Chiquititas.” Given Globo’s exclusive hold on top writers in Brazil, imports and format adaptations are the best recourse for these smaller nets.

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