Brazil’s Conspiraçao Ups the Ante on TV Production (EXCLUSIVE)

TV revenues now represent one third of leading Brazilian production house’s annual sales

Magnifica 70
Courtesy: HBO Latin America / Dan Behr

Once TV production in Brazil, as over most of Latin America, was near monopolized by the in-house output of its dominant domestic commercial broadcast giants, led by Globo and Televisa.

No more. This month, HBO Latin America went into production on a third season of “Magnifica 70” (pictured, season 2), about a buttoned censor who falls in love with the star of a porn film he’s censoring. He ends up directing her films so they can pass censorship.

Its producer, Rio de Janeiro’s Conspiracao, was once far better known outside Brazil for big art films, such as Andrucha Waddington’s multi-generational ode to womanhood, “The House of Sand,” or more local hits – like Waddington’s own “Party Crashers,” which earned $12.9 million in Brazil in 2012, or Breno Silveira’s “Gonzaga: From Father to Son” ($7.2 million, also in 2012).

Now Waddington, Silveira and Claudio Torres, Conspiracao’s star movie directors and company partners, are all involved in large-sized scripted series, Torres serving as general director on “Magnifica 70,” Waddington teaming with Globo to direct medical drama “Under Pressure,” and  Silveira co-directing the eight-seg third season of Fox Channel’s social drama-thriller “I Against All.”

All break with a telenovela tradition of scripted series running into 200-plus episodes. They are also part of a revolution in independent TV production in Brazil. Leading the flow, Conspiracao’s TV production has ramped up tenfold over the last years, said Gustavo Baldoni, executive director of TV at Conspiraçao.

Volume now stands at over 100 hours of new programming produced per year, ranking Conspiracao, thanks to that, as one of the three biggest of Brazilian independent production companies, according to the company’s own estimates.

TV revenues now account for one third of annual turnover, level with its longterm sales champion: Commercials’ production. The remainder comes from digital media and film, Baldoni added.

“We have experienced a large consolidation in growth through TV drama, largely due to the migration to TV of key talent,” Baldoni commented.

Adapting Andrucha Waddington’s 2016 same-titled feature, and scheduled to launch second half 2017 on Globo TV, the nine-part “Under Pressure” teams Waddington with film-doc director Mini Kerti (“Portrait of a Thief”) as directors. Star actors Julio Andrade (“Gonzaga”) and Marjorie Estiano (“Good Manners”) are also on board.

Silveira and Daniel Lieffe will co-direct the eight-seg third season of Fox Channel’s drama “I Against All,” inspired by the true story of a government worker mistakenly arrested for drug trafficking. Prior seasons ranked as Fox’s second-highest rating show in Brazil, only trailing “The Walking Dead.”

Torres, whose hit 2009 movie, “The Invisible Woman,” yielded Conspiracao’s breakthrough 2012 Intl. Emmy winning TV series of the same name, is serving as general director of “Magnifica 70,” with Carolina Jabor, Claudia Castro and Arthur Fontes directing.

Conspiracao plays off a decade-long lift in production investment as TV revenues skyrocketed in Brazil. Over 2015-15, national programmers saw their revenues triple to R$32 billion ($10.0 billion). TV programming spend in Brazil more than doubled to R$4.7 billion ($1.5 billion) in 2015, according to IHS Markit.

Some of that spend, moreover, is now being channeled into independent production. That is thanks in part to new regulation, Brazil’s article 12.485. Another driver of Conspiracao’s TV production build, said Baldoni, and fully up-and-running in 2013, the law obliges many pay TV channels – including Globo’s GNT and Gloob, and A+E, HBO, Disney and Fox – to air up to 3.5 hours of primetime Brazilian content per week, half commissioned out to independents.

Just as pay TV channels that are obliged to invest in local content vary widely in targeted audiences, core programming and budgets, so does the programs commissioned by them, making for diverse slates at top indie production houses.

“Brazil’s indie sector is active and diverse, with multiple participating companies, many of which have diverse portfolios across entertainment TV programming, children’s shows, advertising and feature film,” analyst Anna Stuart wrote in an IHS Technology report.

Conspiracao is no exception. That said, as pay TV spend growth at Globosat and Sky has outpaced that at free-to-air broadcasters, opening up significant new programming opportunities, Conspiracao has developed a strong line in kids and women’s lifestyle programming, snagging multiple commissions from Globosat’s kids channel Gloob, launched in 2012, and its GNT, repositioned as a women’s lifestyle channel from 2003.

At Globo, Conspiraçao has just launched ”Mila’s Vlog – The Mysteries of Ondion,” a spin-off from kids mystery adventure “Blue Building Detectives,” Gloob’s first original production, now shooting seasons 9 and 10 with a second-generation cast, and also the most on-demand content on Globosat catch-up service Globosat Play.

Conspiracao’s GNT shows range from revamped beauty magazine “Superbonita” to “Hysteria,” a women’s empowerment show directed by Jabor and Anne Guimaraes, to health-diet-themed “Vida + Bela” and “Bela Cozinha.” Ranging wider, Conspiracao now has its first project at pay-per-view channel Combat/UFC, “ sports doc series “Mulheresna Luta,” about Ultimate Fighting  Championship women legends, such as the formidable Brazilian-American mixed martial champ Cris Cyborg.