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Mip Cancun 2019: 20 Takeaways, as Global Platforms Transform TV Production in Latin America

CANCUN, Mexico  —  Graced by the showrunners of “Narcos,” “Sr. Avila” and “Hernán” and multiple senior industry figures,  Mip Cancun boasts a distribution market, co-production forum and powerful conference line-up – and for once the possibility for delegates to attend at least some of the presentations.

Based on 18 sessions, from Erik Barmack’s keynote to plenary and insight sessions, and on-stage conversations and presentations and other events, here are 20 takeaways from a robust 6th Mip Cancun, the first under new director Benedicte Touchard de Morant, with co-production forum attendance up 20%, which caught Spain’s and Latin America’s scripted production sectors in an growth vortex:

1.Spanish Language: Production Builds

The big debating point at this year’s Mip Cancun was not if Spanish-language scripted production would grow. It was by how much. The answer came in various fashions: Prognostications by panelists, led by keynote speaker Erik Barmack, Netflix’s former head of international originals, now growing his own company, Wild Sheep Content, whose extraordinary range of knowledge and contacts puts him in a privileged position to see where the industry is going; data analysis from The Wit and Parrot Analytics; and professions of the market drivers themselves, of whom Buena Vista Original Productions, Turner Latin America, Viacom Intl. Studios all made presentations at Mip Cancun. Mip Cancun also hosted insight sessions with a clutch of new kids on the block: Movistar, the Latin America arm of Spanish telco Telefonica; Globo, which is firing up its premium series slate, often via OTT-first productions on SVOD service Globoplay; Vice Studios Latin America, buoyant after the Netflix bow of flagship docu-series “1994.” Put together, the 8th MipCancun mart-meet proved a vibrant statement of a growth sector in Latin America and Spain.

2.Growth Data

Already, volume is building, according to data analysis. In Mexico, from March 2018 through September 2019, the percentage of OTT platforms catalogs in Spanish rose from 6% to 12% for Amazon Prime Video, 6% to 8% for Netflix, and 5% to 6% for HBO, according to a Parrot Analytics study. In Oct. 2018, at 25% of all expressions of demand for titles in Mexico, demand for new Spanish-speaking shows ran five times higher than actual production, representing  around 7% of total output, the study said.

3.No Peak TV in Sight

But how far can production surge? Most predictions at Mip Cancun were bullish. “There’s such a demand for product, from Netflix, Amazon, Viacom, my own company, there’s no way of getting away from it,” said Marcelo Tamburri, VP scripted content development at Turner Latin America. “There’ll be an explosion of content in the next three. four, five years as global platforms look aggressively to build direct subscription bases, opening up large opportunities for producers and creators,” said Diego Piasek, VP, development, MGM International TV Productions. “New global platforms will discover, like Netflix and Amazon before them, that there’s only so much you can do to grow a global service without Spanish, local content,” Barmack concurred.

4.Scale

Growth has other forms, and large collateral. “These platforms that are emerging will be looking for big shows,” Barmack predicted. “That is happening for sure over the next three, four or five years. IP is going to matter a lot. The global platforms are going to be looking for big books, big formats and other sorts of things, that will provide some structure to the storytelling.”

“Buyers will probably be looking to buy less but of higher quality,” said Leonardo Zimbrón, head of fiction at Mexico’s Endemol Shine Boomdog, at a Mip Cancun Producers Panel. So budgets will rise. Already, Mip Cancun coincided with the launch on Amazon Prime Video on Nov. 21 of “Hernán,” the banner show from the Salinas Group’s Dopamine. The Walt Disney Company’s Leonardo Aranguibel and Mariana Pérez walked an audience through “Femicidios,” a monumental pan-regional format with a first season of 10 episodes presenting real-life fatal gender violence in Argentina (produced with Pol-ka, which  originated the idea for the series), Mexico (BTF Media), Brazil (Cinefilm) and Colombia (Vista Productions). It looks already like one of the most ambitious projects ever carried out in the region.

5.The Battle for Talent

Above all, there will be “battle for talent, which will forge links to studios, platforms and producer,” Martí said. In fact, he added, that battle has already begun. “Many series essentially deal with the same subjects,” Federico Cuervo, head of Viacom International Studios (VIS), said at an Insight session at MipCancun. “What makes them different is a highly personal vision, call it a showrunner’s or that of a director, writer or producer,” he added, reminding the audience of recent overall deals struck by VIS with Argentina’s Oscar-winning Juan José Campanella (“The Secret in Their Eyes”), announced at the L.A. Screenings, and with “Torrente’” creator-star Santiago Segura’s Bowfinger. Expect more high-level deals to go down in the weeks to come.

6.The OTTs Are Even Affecting the Kind of Content Getting Made

Global platforms’ subscription drive is beginning in some ways to dictate what contents are getting developed,” said MGM’s Piasek, citing MGM’s drive, more specifically in Latin America, into comedies. They’re also affecting how they get made. On a showrunners’ panel, Lemon Studios’ Fernando Rovzar talked about the challenge of platform data suggesting many viewers switch off after 90 seconds, but if they watch  seven minutes of a series, most finish the first episode. Ever more, shows begin in mid-action, “Hernán” with Cortés having taken Tenochtitlan but threatened by Spanish troops landing in Mexico to arrest him. The age of “contemplative” series is over, Rovzar asserted.

7.One Crux New TV Age Business Model

Why did Barmack leave Netflix? He saw, he said, “a real market opportunity to connect Hollywood to the world and the world to Hollywood.” “I think there’s going to be opportunities for business that are very successful, that will marry those different cultures.” By Hollywood, he refers to the new global platforms. Outside Hollywood, for Pol-ka’s Manuel Martí, the world’s productions sector faces two alternatives: Produce for hire for these platforms; or co-produce with international platforms, with the platforms acquiring a chunk of world rights. One way or another, an ability to connect with the needs of these new behemoths seems vital.

8.Disney Lays Down Latin American Production Pointers

Disney Media Distribution Latin America and Fox Networks Group Latin America were already production leaders in Latin America. Now they belong to the same company. So it was no surprise that few sessions drew more delegates than the industry audience packing out the Cancun Moon Palace Hotel’s gargantuan Cancun Theater to listen to Leonardo Aranguibel and Mariana Pérez outline the production priorities of Buena Vista Original Productions, a new production powerhouse in Latin America. One, most certainly, is fiction, said Aranguibel, who had already helped fire up the what he calls true life fiction to remarkable results while at DMDLA: Think “Until I Met You,” “Selena’s Secret” and “Monzón.” “The strategy which our company has assumed establishes a direct relationship with the consumer. Fiction, whether completely fictitious or not, establishes a connection with human experience, with what we’ve lived, our history, its connects us more with audiences. True life fiction is commitment,” he added.

“Telling a story implies a vision and a responsibility,” added Pérez, citing the gender violence themed “Femicidios,” where Disney “takes a stand, says such murders should never happen again.” Currently, Buena Vista Original Productions, which also includes non-fiction and branded content divisions, has more than 30 projects in development with Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and Chile as its main markets,” Perez said. These include drama, comedy and dramedy. What they are not looking for is sci-fi nor narco narratives, Aranguibel and Pérez added.

Cuna-de-lobos

9.Televisa Studios: Patricio Wills Sets ’Rubi,’ ‘El Privilegio es Amar,’ ‘El Maleficio’ for 2020

At a plenary session conversation with Produ’s Richard Izarra, Televisa Studios president Patricio Wills ran a teaser reel of the confirmed three-title Fábrica de Sueños slate for 2020: “Rubi,” an sequel-remake to one of Televisa’s most complex telenovelas, turning on a beautiful young woman’s tragic ambition, which has shot mostly in Spain; romantic melodrama “El Privilegio es Amar,” produced once more by Carla Estrada and to shoot in Morocco; and “El Maleficio,” a remake of the 1983 supernaturally-tinged melodrama. Launched recently, the first two titles in the Fábrica de Sueños remake anthology were milestone hits. “The Usurper,” indeed, punched the highest primetime 9.30 pm ratings of any series on Televisa’s Canal de las Estrellas  in the last two years.  The franchise still looks to have plenty of gas in the tank.

10.Hernán: Betting on Ambition

“I always ask: Are people thinking big enough? I think sometimes a [lack of] confidence is holding people back from taking huge swings,” Barmack said in his keynote, urging Spanish-language producers to have “ambition,” and citing “Hernán.” There’s some aptness that the biggest show presented at this year’s Mip Cancun, a trade fair that has grown on the back of Spanish and Latin America’s burgeoning production ambitions, should portray the most ambitious conquistador of them all: Hernán Cortés. Befitting the new Latin American TV scene, the real key to the TV series is not just its scale, capturing the astonishing expanse of Aztec capital Tenochtitlan via VFX, but its story structure which solved the extraordinary divineness of the figure of Cortés by capturing him from eight characters’ points of view, one per chapter, driving events over an eight-part first season. A second crux: It’s no coincidence that “Hernán” is produced by Fidela Navarro, CEO of Dopamine, part of the Mexico’s Salinas Group, who has worked in distribution, in collaboration with Spain’s Onza Ent, a production-distribution company. “Hernan’s” second defining achievement is its four-company distribution split: Amazon Prime Video SVOD released “Hernán” in Spain and Latin America on Nov. 21; A & E’s History Channel Latin America released it on pay TV in the region on Nov. 22; taking Mexican free-to-air rights, Azteca 7, the Mexican broadcaster’s upscale second channel, transmits from Nov. 24 ; A+E Networks International has sales rights to the rest of the world. No other Spanish-language series has achieved such a complex territorial arrangement on such a scale.

Hernan

11.Movistar: New Kid on the Block

Movistar Play, the OTT platform aggregator of Spanish telco Telefonica in Latin America, is already making an impact, ranking after Netflix as the direct to consumer service which has added most Spanish language titles to its catalog in Mexico, with getting on for a score since 2018, according to Parrot Analytics.

Given it’s offered free to Movistar subscribers in the region, its potential remains huge, with Telefonica reporting over 80 million clients in Latin America, Joanna Lombardi, Movistar head of fiction, Latin America, said in an presentation. “The only way to persuade users to sign up free of charge to Movistar Play is to offer original content which marks it apart,” she said at Cancun. Movistar released its first Movistar Original on Sept. 13: Millennial generation comedy “Un Dia Eres Joven,” written by María José Osorio and directed by Lombardi and Bruno  Ascenzo. In its first month, “Un Día Eres Joven” was the most watched series on Movistar Play, Lombardi said. Bowing in November, “El Día de Mi Suerte” is a four-part dramedy about an imitator of Puerto Rican salsa singer Hector Lavoe set in a late 1986 Peru undergoing hyperinflation, terrorism, blackouts and a scarcity of basic goods. Created by Mauricio Leiva Cock, a head writer on Netflix original “Frontera Verde,” six half-hour series, “Ruido Capital” a coming of age tale set in ‘90s Bogota, will bow first quarter of 2020.

What is Movistar looking for? “Local stories, but of interest for the rest of Latin America,” said Lombardi. Also: Often limited series, new stories, or ones told from a different angle, and series with cinematographic values: “Un Dia Eres Joven” is from the creative team behind Netflix-acquired hit movie “Soltera codiciada”; “El Día de Mi Suerte” is directed by Daniel and Diego Vega (“October,” “El Mudo”), “Ruido Capital” by Ana Katz (“Florianópolis Dream”) and Pablo Stoll (“Whisky”).

12.Spain’s Content Revolution

Over the 2014-15 season, Cesar Benitez’s Piano a Piano produced both of Spain’s highest-rated shows: Mediaset España’s “El Principe” and Atresmedia’s “Allí Abajo.” But it could only produce three-to-four shows a year and had still to enter international co-production. Near five years later, Plano a Plano has five shows in production and five in development, two – “Los Niños de Morelia“ and “La Cicatriz” – as part of an international co-production alliance with Mexico’s Dopamine. When Netflix decided to launch its first European Production Hub, it chose not London nor Paris but Madrid. A Spanish series, “La Casa de Papel” (“Money Heist”) was binged more in  its first week than “Stranger Things” Season 3, the most-watched series in Netflix history. Why Spanish scripted in booming is another question. For Benítez, participating with Onza Entertainment’s Gonzalo Sagardia on an insight panel, “,” one explanation is Spain’s double-backed recession of 2009-12. “Spain has always had talent. For years, local series have bested U.S. imports in prime time. But the Spanish industry, though important, was small. After the terrible crisis, we knew that the only way to grow was to open up to international, be more ambitious in our productions and believe in ourselves.” That change was boosted by the acceptance, from 2011’s “Gran Hotel,” of more ambitious Spanish originals in Latin America, without the necessity of their being dubbed into a so-called neutral Spanish, he added. Two other factors, said Sagardia, was Spain’s high quality/cost ratio – “there’s a gulf with France, Italy,” he claimed – and the beneficial disruption of global platforms.

Where can Spain go from here? Benitez said Plano a Plano’s core strategies were “looking after talent” and international alliances; Sagardia said the building challenge for free to air TVs of fully financing scripted series opened the door for producers to retain IP. A case in point: Produced with Atresmedia Studios, with Onza Ent. and Atresmedia Studios retaining IP, “Pequeñas Coincidencias” was  then licensed to free-to-air broadcasts group Atresmedia and Amazon Prime Video.

13.Colombia Readies TV Rebates.

Colombia provided Mip Cancun’s Country Focus this year. Little wonder. From 2020, the Colombian government will extend its cash rebates – 40% for qualified local spend, 20% on logistical expenses – to international TV shoots, while also offering 30%-35% tax credits. This adds to already competitive costs and proximity to Mexico and Miami, plus a TV sector which has adjusted to international standards under the impact of producing for global platforms, and a tried-and-tested talent pool, said Diego Ramírez Shrempp at Dynamo, which handled production services on the Bogotá-shot “Narcos.” Also, Colombia’s new government is prioritizing the creative economy, looking to triple its productivity to 8% of national GDP, said Ana Piñeres, CMO V.P.-producer and president of independent producers’ assn. Asocine. Producers are scaling up, as on HBO Latin America’s “Mil Colmillos,” from Rhayuela. Network Caracol now produces in 4K and holds down a production alliance with Netflix. Network RCN is looking to reversion the novelas of the late Fernando Gaitán, creator of the original “Ugly Betty,” with international partners, said Alejandro Toro, RCN Television’s head of production operations. “We’re highly prepared in infrastructure, output and personal capacity,” commented Catalina Porto, Caracol executive manager, production, of most probably the most competitive national film-TV locale in Latin America.

MIL-COLMILLOS
CREDIT: Rhayuela Films

14.Globo’s “Orphans of a Nation”

Screened at Mip Cancun, Globo’s “Orphans of a Nation” begins with a long tracking shot slinking through the immaculate,  kitchen of a family home as women bake cakes for a birthday party. “Orphans” is a telenovela, featuring two star-crossed lovers, competing in that category at the Dec. 1 Rose d’Or Awards, and will be one of Globo’s banner titles at Natpe. But it also shows just how far Globo’s telenovelas have come, Ep. 1, which was screened at Mip Cancun, being set mostly in Syria, and shot with a sensitivity to the rich, vivid tones of the Middle East. Adding a social edge to proceedings, it charts the plight of Syrian war refugees. Globo is already an exception in Latin America, a TV which still commands a huge free-to-air market share, but is firing up its direct-to-consumer production on Globoplay, which has produced six original productions this year, consolidating as an OTT national champion. According to Parrot Analytics, 53% of Globoplay content is original Portuguese-language, compared to 2% of Netflix’s offer in Brazil. Constantly enrolling social issues — Syrian-Brazilian  refugees, the health service (“Under Pressure”) and second-chance education (“Second Call”) – Globo constantly surprises.

15.’Monzón,’ ‘Bolivar,’ ‘La Reina del Sur,’ ‘El Marginal’ Season 3, Manolo Caro Top the Produ Awards

Latin America’s sky-rocketing new TV industry needed more pan-regional kudos ceremony. Now it’s got one, in the Produ Awards, which closed the final full day of Mip Cancun last Thursday with a glitzy ceremony attended by celebrities such as Mexico’s legendary Silvia Pidal. World premiering at Series Mania, presented at the L.A. Screenings and feted at Spain’s Conecta Fiction, “Monzón,” Buena Vista Original Productions latest example of true life fiction and large artistic ambitions took best series, program opening, director of photography (Christian Cottet) and composer (Sergei Grosny). Accepting the award, Leonardo Aranguibel thanked Marcelo Tamburri for betting on the series, distributing it on Turner Latin America’s Space, which broke ratings records with the series for TLA in Argentina. Other famed figures of the Latin American TV industry also came in for recognition, Manolo Caro winning best director for Netflix Mexican hit “The House of Flowers,”  Sebastián Ortega best show-runner for “El Marginal” Season 3, and Martha Godoy, Rodrigo Guerrero and Marcos Santana best producer for Telemundo Global Studios ‘ Netflix show “La Reina del Sur” Season 2. ”Amar a muerte,” from Televisa, W Studios and Lemon Studios, nabbed best telenovela. The Produ Awards also served to highlight not so well-known talent such as fast-on-the-rise Argentine company Jaque Content which took best ministries for Argentina original “La Chica que Limpia” and Juana Uribe, best writer for Caracol TV’s “Bolivar” which also scooped best super-series. “La Casa de las Flores’” Veronica Castro walked off with best actress, “El Marginal” 3’s Nicolas Furtado with best actor.

The-House-of-Flowers
CREDIT: Netflix

 

16.Breadth of Platform, Studios’ Content Interests

No one size fits all, said Barmack. “The platforms really have very, very different business objetives. Netflix essentially has one business model with different price points, whereas Apple and Amazon business is much more mixed with other objetives.” As described at Cancun, the interests of Latin America’s market drivers ran a similar gamut. Viacom International Studios (VIS) is looking for “stories which, though set in a specific place. are really universal,” Cuervo said at Cancún. Movistar searches for stories which couldn’t be set in any other country, said Lombardi, Turner Latin America for local shows with universal themes, Tamburri observed. Telemundo International Studios can produce for its free-to-air network in the U.S., or third parties and has another window opening with Comcast’s launch of a steaming service in April 2020, Ana Paula Valdovinos, TIS VP production and development, said at Cancún.

17. The Crunch Challenge

Demand is outpacing production capacity, Dynamo’s Ramírez Shrempp said of Colombia. The same could be said of Mexico and Brazil. “We need to give things time, to train people, we need more schools, with a commercial focus,” said Turner Latin America’s Tamburri, who drafts young writers into writers’ rooms to ensure series made for younger audiences have a youthful POV. In Colombia, Asocine, Netflix, the Ministry of Culture and Compuo brought in two Netflix post-production specialists to talk a local industry audience through 4K work flow, said Piñeres. In Mexico, Lemon Studios has launched El Centro to foster a new generation of showrunners. Lecturers include Lemon founders Fernando and Billy Rovzar, speakers have taken in Netflix’s Ted Sarandos and Francisco Ramos.

18.Latin American Showrunners

The need to create showrunners is a sign of the times. “The global platforms which come to Latin America don’t know everyone here, and have to make big bets hoping everything goes O.K. One platform client said to me: ‘I don’t care if you call it a show runner but I need one creative I can talk to – not 32 people or a committee – who responds for the whole of the process,” said Juliana Barrera, at The Mediapro Studio, Colombia, on a panel The Showrunner’s Role in Latin America.  What defines a showrunner in Latin America is another question. Currently, there are very few in the region said Tamburri, citing Diego Posada, producer of “El Chapo,” with whom he worked on the anticipated Turner Latin America remake of “La chica que limpia.” A showrunner’s the person who realizes if something’s not in accord with the original idea you want to tell,” said Posada. “It’s the person responsible for conceiving, designing and communicating their own vision to create a TV series, and then supervising the whole team during writing, the shoot and post-production, ensuring each episode is created on time and budget for the studio that produces and the channel which transmits,” said Fernando Rovzar (“Sr. Avila”), who is currently penning Season 2 of “Monarca.” One key for Latin America is that, however big the Latin American industry grows, showrunners should not lose their passion, their desire to sweat blood for their projects, to do anything to make them happen, Rovzar and Posada agreed.

19.The Wit: Latin America as A Land of True Fiction, and Scripted Formats

What distinguishes Latin America? Formats and True Fiction, said Virginia Mouseler at a FreshFiction presentation, a fixture now at Mip Cancún, as at MipTV and Mipcom. Indeed, over the last five years, put together, Argentina, Chile and Colombia exported more scripted formats (51) than the U.S. (50). Latin America is also hot on scripted imports, Mexico rating after the U.S. as the top importing territory of scripted formats over the last five years with  46 adaptations to the U.S’s 63. Latin America is also the land of true facts. New  scripted content based on true events accounted for 7% of releases worldwide, but 16% in Latin America, Mouseler announced, citing neo-Nazi community exposé thriller “Dignity,” produced by Chile’s Mega and Germany’s Joyn, HBO Latin America’s bio of fated earlier Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos Dumont, and Spanish conquest love story “The Queen and the Conqueror,” from Colombia’s Caracol TV.

The Department of Time

20.Parrot Analytics: Platforms in Mexico and Brazil

What are the trends driving Direct-to-Consumer business in Latin America’s biggest platform markets, Mexico and Brazil? Alejandro Rojas, regional director of Parrot Analytics, provided a wealth of detail, confirming or sometimes questioning anecdotal market takes. What services, for example, are driving new OTT releases? Of 100-plus Spanish-language launches from 2018 in Mexico, it was Netflix, with 30-plus. Globoplay dominated DTC Portuguese titles in Brazil, followed by Netflix, Looke, and HBO and Amazon. On OTTs, Spanish-language action dramas (think: “Señora Acero”) and action fantasy (“The Department of Time,” for example) command more market attention than their English counterparts in Mexico, Rojas suggested. Televisa titles “The Usurper” and “My Husband Has Family” commanded substantial market attention before the respective announcements of a remake and a spinoff (“El Corazón Nunca Miente”), validating these moves, Rojas argued.

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