Faced with a feeding frenzy for higher-end dramas — punctuated by the Netflix-led OTTs mounting forays into original productions — Latin America’s most prominent players are forging alliances in a bid to cement their hold on a fracturing television market. Such collaborations allow both parties to work with higher budgets, and tap the cachet, expertise and multiplatform distribution channels of their partners.
Among the key players, Mexican TV giant Televisa made an agreement with Sony Pictures Television (SPT) to co-produce “Blue Demon,” a 65-episode TV drama series based on the true-life story of iconic Mexican wrestler Alejandro Munoz Moreno. Now in production, “Blue Demon” will air in Latin America on multiple Televisa platforms, with SPT and Televisa jointly distributing the series across the world.
Announcing the project at NATPE, Angelica Guerra, SPT senior VP and managing director of production for Latin America and U.S. Hispanic, said: “There is a growing demand in the region for stories about real people and events, a trend that started in Colombia and has now made its way to Mexico.”
NBCUniversal’s Spanish-language network Telemundo has long followed a strategy of co-producing with major content companies over the years, including Mexico’s Argos, Disney, Fox, and Sony Pictures TV Latin America, says Marcos Santana, president of Telemundo Intl.
“It may seem like demand for content has risen but what’s really happening is that windows are fragmenting even more; only production levels of TV series have really gone up,” Santana says. Last year, Telemundo inked co-production and distribution pacts with HBO and Mega Chile. Its MipTV catalog is toplined by 51-episode SPT production “La Querida del Centauro,” which follows a woman who falls for a drug lord and then teams up with a detective to seek revenge.
“By banding together, we pool our individual strengths, our expertise and our distribution networks,” says Lisette Osorio, international sales VP of Colombian broadcaster Caracol TV, which has co-produced up to eight documentaries with Discovery Channel, including one on the late Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez and another on the trafficking of immigrants.
Caracol and Brazilian media giant Globo TV announced in 2014 plans to launch a cable TV network in the U.S., but there have been no updates so far.
Globo, which brings a diverse lineup to MipTV led by telenovelas “Boogie Oogie” and “Rules of the Game,” made waves at NATPE this year with plans for its first major Spanish-language series, “Supermax,” from Argentine feature helmer Daniel Burman (“Lost Embrace”). Burman’s company, Oficina Burman, is developing TV projects across Iberoamerica and the U.S. Hispanic market.
Burman, who created “Supermax” with Mario Segade, will serve as the showrunner and manage a directing team that includes Hernan Goldfrid (“Tesis Sobre un Homicidio”), Bruno Hernandez (“8 Tiros”) and the directors of HBO’s “Epitafios.”
“I feel like I’m starting anew,” says Burman who also plans to shoot the feature adaptation of Milena Busquets’ bestseller “Tambien esto Pasara” in Cadaques and Barcelona next year.
“After an era of largely low-budget and local productions, Latin America has built up into a very strong TV market,” Burman said after the announcement. “That strength allows us now to create big fictions which, language notwithstanding, have potential worldwide.”
Televisa also recently pacted with Keshet Intl., the global distribution and production arm of Tel Aviv-based Keshet Media Group, to acquire remake rights to four scripted formats from Keshet over the next three years. First among them is hit sitcom “Loaded,” which Mexican film and TV producer Jorge Aragon (“A La Mala,” “Capadocia”) will produce with Televisa’s in-house team. The topical comedy series revolves around four pals who develop a hit video game that makes them millionaires overnight, putting a strain on their sanity and friendships.
“The challenge is to surpass earlier productions not only in quality but in optimizing costs,” Santana says. “Not to mention the fact that we need content that is adaptable to the audiences of today, who are so much more demanding in every way.”