In a move indicative of the growing international reach of the company, TV Azteca has sold its telenovela “So Much Love” in South Africa, a market that company marketing manager Andrés Payá said has “always given a great reception to this Latin American genre and, especially, to the productions of TV Azteca.”
A few short years ago, Azteca, Mexico’s second largest broadcaster, found themselves in a hole, suffering the same symptoms as so many across Latin America displayed. However, after a change of leadership and philosophy, the company is now trending in a direction more appreciated by analysts, fueled largely by the multi-platform success of its original programming, and a willingness to adapt to more current trends in format and narrative.
Azteca’s bread has traditionally been buttered by telenovelas, but as the popularity of the format began to wane, many Latin American broadcasters have abandoned or attempted to overhaul the format. Azteca is a latter case. Higher production values, bigger budgets and consolidation of international markets that appreciate, and often replicate, Mexican telenovelas have proved boons for the format and the company. To date, Azteca has sold “So Much Love” in more than 60 countries, mostly in Latin America and Africa.
No trend in Latin American programming has been more obvious in recent years than the rise of the narco-novela, and Azteca is hip to that game.
In its flagship super-series “Iron Lady,” a female prosecutor’s father is murdered by drug cartels, and she must use all of her resources to make sure justice is done. While made for, and especially relevant to Mexican audiences, the series has sold well outside of its home territory, including Netflix deals in Ecuador, Vietnam and Ethiopia, and a U.S. Deal with Univision.
Beyond improving the quality of its content, Azteca has steered its in-house productions towards more contemporary, socially relevant themes. Super-series “Bad Maids” is a strong example. In it, a journalist who has recently lost her mother learns that the woman who raised her may not be her biological parent. In an attempt to investigate her true heritage, she goes undercover at a maid service which she quickly learns is a front for a forced surrogacy organization.
Azteca has also shown a willingness to diversify the types of fiction it produces. “Two Lakes” is a deviation from the norm in narrative and in format. Clocking in at 13 sixty-minuted episodes, it fits into a more standard international format often shared by other content on Amazon, who recently secured Latin American broadcast rights.
The program, co-produced with 20th Century Fox and based on the BBC series “Lightfields,” has fantasy and genre elements. A multi-generational haunted house tale, “Two Lakes” follow three families in three distinct decades, who all live in the same haunted house.
Another area where the broadcaster has invested heavily is in the scale of its productions. During a masterclass at October’s Mipcom, TV Azteca CEO Benjamin Salinas announced that the company’s parent company, Grupo Salinas, had opened a new, high-end production wing called Dopamine.
Along with Sony Pictures TV, Dopamine is co-producing “Mary Magdalene,” the first titled announced by the company. Salinas has committed $200 million towards new and original high-end content to be produced by Dopamine, which will act independently from TV Azteca, with its own management, budget and sales team. While it will produce content for Azteca, Salinas didn’t dismiss the possibility of producing for other broadcasters or platforms as well.