Allying three of the key independent players in today’s teen TV space, Argentina’s Pol-ka, producer of Disney juggernauts “Violetta” and “Soy Luna,” is teaming with Mexican TV giant Televisa and Paris-based Federation Kids & Family to produce “Love, Divina,” a groundbreaking digital-age, pan-Latin American teen drama.
“Love, Divina” toplines Laura Esquivel, an international tween-teen TV icon and pop star after telenovela smash hit “Patito Feo,” broadcast from 2008 and reversion for Mexico by Televisa. Its soundtrack produced five gold albums in Italy, Spain and Portugal and sold two million concert tickets.
Series writer is Mario Schajris, “Patito Feo” co-creator and co-writer.
Televisa and Federation Kids & Family will co-sell “Love, Divina,” focusing on territories where they have the strongest client base, said Federation Kids & Entertainment managing director David Michel. Televisa, for example, will sell Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal, added Maca Rotter, exec director, Televise consumer products. The partners will start to deliver the show for distribution during Mipcom.
Esquivel’s new daily teen series reflects a TV revolution. “Patito Feo’s” Argentine original had Argentine stars, Televisa’s makeover a Mexican key cast. Targeting a new, more globalized generation of TV viewers and an evolving TV landscape, “Love, Divina” will have just one version for the whole of Latin America, sporting characters with clear national accents. It will also be designed for both broadcast and digital distribution, with multiple digital spinoffs. “Love, Divina’’s” five-month shoot ends in the first week of November,
Televisa’s Blim, its pan-Latin American SVOD service, will bow “Love, Divina” in Latin America in January, said Rotter.
“Love, Divina” is a substantial addition to teen live-action entertainment, identified as a growth sector for independent production.
Teen series currently offer “a world of opportunities and ideas, way more than in the the adult space where we have really tried everything,” said Michel, crediting Amazon’s “quirky, different” shows for opening up the genre.
However, “Love, Divina’s” narrative mix of humor, music and drama, relies on more traditional interplay between social classes and aspirational drive.
Argentina’s Esquivel plays a teenager who dreams of becoming a singer, takes a gaggle of homeless kids under her wing and moves in with them to her long-lost affluent grandmother’s mansion. There, she meets Felipe, a Mexican, who becomes the love of her life as fast friendships and bitter rivalries flower between the mansion’s privileged family and newcomers.
“Televisa started creating tween and teen series 15 years ago said Rotter, citing 2004-06’s “Rebelde,” a makeover of Cris Morena’s ‘Rebelde Way” in Argentina, as well as “Patito Feo.”
The teen drama series format “has been evolving with audiences since then, adding platforms and technology. Music and humor are the base of success everywhere, not just on TV, she added.
“We are not inventing anything new but we do have an enormous opportunity to open up new territories with quality products,” Rotter continued.
That said, Rotter argued that the keys to success are still the right balance between drama, music and humor for teens and adding the right partners
“Love, Divina” is most certainly made for the digital age.
Producers have set 60 episodes, the length of a short telenovela. But the drama will be divided into three digital-friendly dramatic arcs of of 20 segments, observing “the demand for content of different platforms, including VOD systems,’ said Rotter.
The series has two production teams, one for traditional broadcast, another for digital. Songs will have three versions, for the screen, digital and records.
“With all the digital platforms you have now, younger audiences are used to seeing shows from Sweden, Italy, the U.S. or Brazil,” said Manuel Marti, Pol-ka head of development and international business, adding that the show would not disguise accents, though it would avoid local jargon.
Younger audiences are also more used to foreign locales. Shooting at Pol-ka’s studios in Buenos Aires plus multiple locations in the city, “Love, Divina’s” locations are “really upbeat and colorful, with the same color palette, giving a sense of make-believe or a fairy tale,” said Marti.
Aired 2012-15 on Disney Channel, and its first big Latin American teen drama production, the Pol-ka-produced “Violetta” was broadcast in over 140 countries, was a top 5 Disney franchise in Europe, and sold more than three million books, two million albums and one million diaries. Also Pol-ka produced, “Soy Luna” bowed in 40 countries, and was a top 10 album in France, Portugal and Spain.
“Between them, Pol-ka and Televisa have made a lot of the huge and only non-U.S. teen serials that really traveled internationally, period, and which have the right production values and work from the broadcast perspective and in terms of merchandising and licensing side. That’s why we wanted to partner with Pol-ka and Televisa,” said Michel.
Unlike animation, teen live action suffers less from competition from YouTube.
“If you look at free-of-charge YouTube, there is a lot of animation that is not produced for networks that you can watch all day,” Michel said.”
He added: “When you do drama, you don’t have this competition. There isn’t high production value drama on free-access YouTube or Dailymotion. It’s still an area where you can get these teens when they aren’t online. “