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Televisa Prexy Jose Baston Mulls Future TV, Telenovelas

Seeking to make more U.S. Hispanic-targeted content, evolving the telenovela

Televisa is aiming to craft more U.S. Hispanic-targeted content and further adapt its telenovelas and other content to the fast-evolving multi-platform landscape, said Televisa prexy Jose “Pepe” Baston.

“The U.S. Hispanic market is the most important one for us, after Mexico, and when you observe its rapid pace of growth, it has undoubtedly become the number one priority for Televisa’s content development business,” he told Variety. Televisa has a reported 35% stake in U.S. Hispanic media giant Univision, which plans to launch an IPO later this year, and has a long-term programming licensing pact that gives it exclusive U.S. broadcast and digital rights (albeit with some limitations) to Televisa’s telenovelas, sport programming, sitcoms, reality series, and feature films.

This year, Televisa collaborated with NALIP, the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, to participate in a TV incubator program at NALIP’s four-day Media Summit, which wrapped June 26. The idea is to train, fund and develop content for Televisa and other participating networks, re-imagine current shows, said NALIP executive director Axel Caballero.

Televisa producer and content innovation director Rosy Ocampo was on hand to serve as a mentor. “We hope the Latino ‘Empire’ comes out of this program,” said Caballero of Fox’s top-rated musical drama series.  “‘Empire’ is a telenovela,” Baston pronounced.

“There have been stratospheric changes in the television business, and if you don’t evolve, you die,” said Baston who pointed out how new telenovelas no longer run for 160 episodes, if not half that or even less, to accommodate fast-changing viewer habits. As part of its Telenovela 2.0 strategy, Televisa has just unveiled a 16-episode telenovela, “Sin Rastro,” which will air for three weeks from Aug. 1. “Sin Rastro” (Without a Trace”) turns on a woman who vanishes just before her wedding and returns five years later to seize back the life she lost.

While speaking at the NALIP Media Summit last Saturday, Baston summed up the conundrum facing today’s television industry: “Technology poses the biggest threat and the biggest opportunity,” he said. “It’s scary. We’re not only competing against other media but also user-generated content,” he added. Like counterparts worldwide, Televisa has invested in the latest technology from HD to 4K, and is creating content for a multi-platform universe.

He sees Blim, the OTT streaming platform Televisa launched some three months ago, as a complementary offer to market leader Netflix, pointing to Televisa’s threefold advantage: the “biggest Spanish-language library in the world,” original local productions and a spectrum of promotional platforms in the vertically integrated company. “Our results for Blim have been higher than expected,” he said, while declining to specify subscription figures. Baston added that they were currently focused on fine tuning the search tools on Blim.

While Televisa has been devoting more efforts to the digital sphere and seen high traffic from its partnerships with YouTube, Google, Facebook and other social media platforms as well as its second-screen applications, “The profits with non-lineal content are not there yet,” he warned. “We haven’t been able to truly monetize it yet.”

But his faith in the power of the telenovela genre has not wavered. “A good telenovela will work everywhere,” said Baston. “It still delivers the best profit margins, the best returns and the best ratings.”

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