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Flush Latin buyers look to NATPE

Teen and tween projects look to be most in demand

Miami, the gateway to Latin America, will once again host a wave of NATPE attendees from a region that has emerged relatively unscathed by the global economic crisis, posting dynamic economic growth and a predominantly young population that spells burgeoning programming needs from both general and pay TV markets in the territory.

“Latin American broadcasters are seeking the attention of younger viewers and their families, so tween and teen content is in high demand,” says Helen Jurado, VP of TV sales & distribution at BBC Worldwide Latin America, who recently sold a package of youth-targeted programs to HBO Latin America. “Everyone is going for the elusive 18-to-35 audience,” she adds.

The HBO package includes new BBC Worldwide tomboy skein “Sadie J,” time-twisting adventure skein “Leonardo,” drama skein “Strike Back” and music program “Later … With Jools Holland.” BBC Worldwide’s extensive catalog of concerts is in high demand.

Networks are also facing the fragmentation of their core middle- and upper-class audience, which is gravitating toward the Internet and mobile devices to get their entertainment fix.

Viacom’s youth-skewing Comedy Central is responding to this development by launching across all multimedia platforms in both Portuguese and Spanish in Latin America on Feb. 1. The network is set to reach an initial 10 million viewers through distribution deals with major cable carriers. Programming will include U.S. pics, skeins, standup comedy shows and local acquisitions such as “XHDerbez” and “Va de nuez en cuando” from Mexico’s Televisa. Daily news shows “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” will be available only on Comedy Central Latin America’s website, launched in November 2011, along with such Web skeins such as “The Spooky Show,” which is slated to debut on the channel in the near future.

More companies have been turning to local production in a region where domestic content remains king.

“We will be on the lookout at NATPE for new series to acquire, and will be exploring new formats and sitcoms to remake in Mexico and Argentina by 2013,” says Fernando Gaston, senior VP of creative, content and music at MTV/VH1/Comedy Central Latin America.

“We’ll also be seeking more telenovela co-production partners at NATPE,” says Gaston, in keeping with MTV’s aim to make at least one youth-targeted telenovela a year. MTV started original content production in 2009 with “Ninas mal,” a co-production with Sony Pictures Television. “Popland,” its first 100% MTV production, aired in the region last year.

Sister web Nickelodeon Latin America has been churning out a slew of tween programs since 2003’s “Skimo,” its first foray into the field. The new slate includes season 2, set to debut Feb. 27, of hit telenovela “Grachi,” which centers on a tween with magical powers. Nick is also producing “Julie and the Phantoms,” the first skein it is making in Brazil, with a Spanish version debuting in March in Spanish-speaking Latin America.

“The pre-tween demo of ages 7-9 are relatively underserved,” says Tatiana Rodriguez, Nick Latin America’s VP of programming and creative strategy. The network is allotting a regular 7 p.m. slot for its locally produced teen/tween programs, according to Rodriguez.

Nick recently inked a development deal with Miami-based shingle Somos Prods., run by former Venevision Intl. execs Luis Villanueva and Jose Antonio Espinal. Nick Latin America will unveil the trailer of Somos’ pilot “Once once, en mi cuadra nada cuadra” (Eleven, Eleven, Nothing Fits in My Block) at NATPE. The 80-episode teen skein will debut late 2102 on Nick Latin America, Villanueva says.

Alex Marin, senior VP of distribution, Latin America, for Sony Pictures Television (SPT) notes an increased appetite for edgy telenovelas or teleseries (aka short telenovelas) among terrestrial broadcasters.

“Rosario Tijeras,” an SPT co-production with Colombian broadcaster RCN about a female hired assassin, was a ratings success across the region. SPT is now in pre-production on teleseries “La Prepago,” which revolves around a woman leading a double life against a backdrop of politics, greed and ambition.

SPT spearheaded the move to local production in the early 2000s when it remade its gameshows and sitcoms, such as “The Nanny” and “Mad About You,” for local auds. It also created U.S.-style skeins such as “Los Simuladores” (The Pretenders), based on an Argentine skein, and “Los Caballeros las Prefieren Brutas” (Gentlemen Prefer Them Dumb) from the Colombian novel by Isabella Santo Domingo.

“Demand is exceeding (supply) right now,” says Marin. Companies offering local content are thriving. But a word of caution from the BBC’s Jurado: “Local production is time-consuming, costly and offers no guarantees.”

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