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HBO Latin America Ramps up Original Content

Producing series, docs, shorts and a talk show

Faced with a young demographic audience with short attention spans and a growing penchant for TV everywhere, anytime, HBO Latin America is ramping up and revamping its original production in terms of content and length.

The 25-year old premium channel service was the first to introduce original limited series with higher-than-average budgets in the region, starting with “Epitafios” 15 years ago. Since then it has produced more than 500 hours of content, of which more than 300 hours are original productions, and more than 200 are co-productions. It has become a creative hub for some of the best producers in the biz, with powerhouse shingles such as Chile’s Fabula, which produced the action-packed fugitive drama “Profugos,” Mexico’s Argos which made female prison drama “Capadocia”, and Lemon Films of Mexico for the channel’s top-rated “Sr. Avila” where Tony Dalton plays an insurance salesman who moonlights as a hitman.

Top filmmakers have helmed some of HBO Latin America’s original series including Fabula’s Pablo Larrain (“Neruda,” “Jackie”) who directed some of the episodes of “Profugos’ ” two seasons, along with Jonathan Jakubowicz (“Hands of Stone”), Adrian Caetano (“Mala”), and Javier Patron (“Fuera del Cielo”) who also helmed several episodes of “Capadocia” along with Carlos Carrera (“El Crimen del Padre Amaro”).

HBO LA has also served as a launchpad for relatively new talent such as Chumel Torres who leads “Chumel con Chumel Torres,” the channel’s first talk show fashioned after HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” or “Last Week Tonight,” hosted by acerbic British comic John Oliver. Chumel was already known to millions of his YouTube followers before HBO signed him up in its bid to reach millennials.

“We’re trying it get to the next set of customers without abandoning the old,” said HBO Latin America CEO Emilio Rubio.

While movies sourced from strategic deals with Disney, Warner, Sony and Universal remain the backbone of the channel’s programming, HBO LA has doubled its original content production to around four-to-five new shows a year.

“We’re shooting in multiple locations across Latin America,” said HBOLA’s Networks president Luis Peraza, citing the current production of comic-book based “El Hipnotizador” in Montevideo, Uruguay and “La Vida Secreta de las Parejas” in Sao Paolo, among others.

The channel has recently ventured into the non-fiction arena, airing two feature docu acquisitions thus far: Carlos Moreno’s “Guerras Ajenas” which delves into the toxic spraying of illegal crops in Colombia, and Matias Guilbert’s moving “Antes de que nos Olviden” (“Before We Are Forgotten”), which centers on the devastation of innocent lives in Mexico’s raging drug war. Some two years ago, it aired docu series “Heroes Cotidianos.”

HBO LA has also introduced three-minute shorts, mainly serving as interstitials to accompany its on-air promos. Based on Latin American horror stories and urban legends, the “Fantasmagoria” animated shorts further serve to boost the channel’s appeal to younger auds.

Meanwhile, it continues apace with its production of new original content, with “Jardin de Bronce” and “La Vida Secreta de las Parejas” slated to bow next year.

Shooting in Argentina, “Jardin de Bronce” is an 8-part series based on a novel by Gustavo Malajovich, who is also co-penning the show with Marcos Osorio Vidal. Show revolves around an architect who is bent on finding his daughter who has mysteriously vanished. “La Vida Secreta…” stars Brazil’s Bruna Lombardi who plays a sexologist who gets embroiled in the investigation of one of her patients.

“These shows are getting more expensive to produce but that’s also because we’re tackling more ambitious projects,” said Peraza who hinted at a major show to be filmed in Brazil. “We have shortened our number of episodes, in order to allocate more resources to each episode.”

In production in 2016:

“Jardín de Bronce” thriller, airing in 2017

“Guerras Ajenas” docu

“Chumel con Chumel Torres” satire/ news commentary

“La Vida Secreta de las Parejas” suspense/humor, up for 2017 broadcast

“Sr. Ávila” Season 3, hitman thriller

“Magnifica 70”  1970s drama set in Brazil, Season 2

“El Negocio”  Savvy call girl applies marketing principles to her profession, Season 4

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