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Chilean TV Grapples With Globalization

SANTIAGO, Chile – Globalization was the key word in a TV panel held during Sanfic where Mega TV’s International Content chief Juan Ignacio Vicente, CNTV development head Ignacio Villalabeitia and DirecTV programming director Rossy Hernandez debated the myriad challenges Chile’s television industry faces today.

Like its counterparts worldwide, Chilean TV is dealing with the spectre of streaming television that has radically changed viewing habits and increased demand for costly premium content. “Making television content for Chile’s paltry 16 million inhabitants will not suffice,” Mega’s Vicente pointed out. “They compare ours with the series that are on Netflix, with Amazon Prime, etc.; viewers today demand more from us in terms of original ideas, the script, the narrative conclusion and obviously the quality of production,” said Vicente. “And this is a serious problem for us as we don’t have the resources to produce at that level,” he stressed, adding that Mega TV, Chile’s leading broadcaster, only draws its income from advertising revenues, which are shrinking, “not by the year, but by the month,” he pronounced.

“If we continue this way, we are going to end up like Blockbuster,” he warned, in reference to the once ubiquitous video store chain as he outlined Mega’s plans to enter into more international co-productions.

Villalabeitia pointed out that the National TV Council (CNTV) now funds international co-productions across its financing categories and has already participated in a number of projects including Finland-Chile co-production “Invisible Heroes,” about a Finnish diplomat who rescued 2,000 Chileans from persecution during the Pinochet regime.

Two episodes opened Sanfic’s inaugural television sidebar, Sanfic Series. The eight-episode series set to air on Turner-owned Chilevision was co-produced by Chile’s Parox and Finland’s Kaiho Republic, and was backed by CNTV, Corfo Chile, Finland’s pubcaster YLE and Chile’s film commission.

“It’s vital to seek international co-producers as this would benefit Chilean’s audiovisual industry, its talent and its crew,” said Villalabeitia who mentioned CNTV’s participation in an ambitious series with Spain, “Ines del Alma Mia” which shoots in Spain, Chile and Peru starting in September. It also backed Pablo Larrain’s “Neruda” and mega-series “Sitiados” in recent years.

Per Vicente, Mega TV has co-produced a series in Mexico that has taken two and half years to develop. “Our goal is to reach not only audiences in Chile, but in Mexico, Colombia, and hopefully all Latin America.”

DirecTV’s Hernandez had good news for indie producers and niche programming: “There’s more room for them on our programming grid as demand for premium content rises,” she noted, adding that DirecTV began to include shows from Italy, France etc. as viewers have grown less averse to subtitles.

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