From Disney Plus and HBO Max to Latin America’s Content Explosion, 10 Takeaways From MipCancun Online Plus

J.C. Acosta, Leonardo Aranguibel, and Ana Bond
Credit: ViacomCBS/Leonardo Aranguibel/Sony Pictures Television

Focused on Latin America and U.S. Hispanic markets, last week’s MipCancun Online Plus market-conference was a boutique affair, attracting 600 delegates from 500 companies and 44 countries.

Far more than MipTV and even Mipcom, however, MipCancun’s lineup of speakers marked a virtual who’s who of relevant leading industry figures, led by the top executives for Latin America at companies shaping the region’s film-TV future: Netflix’s Francisco Ramos; Disney Plus’ Leonardo Aranguibel; ViacomCBS Intl. Studios and Networks Americas’ J.C. Acosta; Amazon Prime Video’s Pablo Iacoviello; NBCUniversal Telemundo’s Marcos Santana; and Sony Pictures Television’s Ana Bond.

Wrapping Friday, 2020’s MipCancun kicked off on Nov. 17 as Disney Plus launched across Latin America. That seems appropriate. One subject dominated most keynote and panels, one way or another: The impact of the still ongoing OTT revolution on Latin America’s production sector. Below, find 10 takeaways from MipCancun 2020’s conference.

An Exploding Demand for Content…

Already escalating, the demand for original content looks set to grow even larger, noted several executives. “Disney obviously has a spectacular library which we’re very proud to launch [Disney Plus] with. However, we will have to increase the quantity of original content, especially local Latin American content,” said Cecilia Mendoza, head of content development, Kids, Young Adults & Family at a Disney Plus keynote. “We’ll be generating more content so we’ll have to work with more people,” added Aranguibel, head of production operations & strategy, The Walt Disney Company, Latin America.

Iacoviello, Amazon Prime Video content director, Latin America, likewise commented that it would be “doubling” its content production in the region in 2021. “You can see what’s happened over the last two years with the growth in the consumption of creation for OTT. There are 100,000 hours of Spanish-language content. That’s a huge opportunity,” concurred Acosta, president of ViacomCBS International Studios & Networks Americas.

… Stemming From Increasing Audience Demand

Sustained audience demand is driving production demand for streaming services. In an introductory panel released on Tuesday titled “What’s Next for Streaming Services,” Ivan Marchant, Comscore VP Latin America, surveyed key trends in audience build in the U.S. and Europe that are likely to play out over Latin America in the near future.

Connected TV device usage is growing rapidly, he noted. Smart TVs, for instance, were owned by 37% of U.S households in April 2018 and 51% in April 2020. Streaming boxes/sticks went up from 47% to 57% in the same time period. Video streaming growth on desktop and mobile was up 44% and 28% year-on-year in April. In Europe, at 53% of viewership, streaming has overtaken linear TV in total hours watched, according to a 2020 survey by Samsung Behind the Screens, Marchant added.

The “huge rise in OTT engagement during the crisis is now holding steady and isn’t something that’s going to go away,” he said.

The Deals

In a move which swept the imagination of MipCancun, Miami-based BTF Media announced a series version of Argentine modern classic movie “Nine Queens,” the original of which introduced actor Ricardo Darin to international audiences. ViacomCBS Intl. Studios announced a first look deal with Marc Anthony’s Magnus Studios. Univision acquired Turkish across-the-tracks love story “The Ambassador’s Daughter” from Inter Medya. Erik Barmack’s Wild Sheep Content boarded steamy romantic comedy “Sweet Paprika,” the first animation project from renowned comic book artist Mirka Andolfo. In further news announced during MipCancun, Warner Bros. snagged sales rights to series “Casa Grande,” directed by Gabriela Tagliavini.

U.S. Hispanic: Another Growth Driver

When France’s Federation Entertainment launched Federation Spain this April, it did so to produce series and films for and with the U.S. Hispanic market as much as Latin America – with good reason. U.S. Latinos form the second-biggest Spanish-speaking market in the world, Marcos Santana, president of Telemundo Global Studios, told MipCancun delegates. Their GDP, $2.13 trillion, would make them, if a standalone country, the sixth biggest economy in the world. With an average age of 29, U..S Hispanics spend 113 hours a week connected to devices. Given they represent more than half the population growth in the U.S. and will reach 100 million by 2050, U.S. Latinos are on track to account 40% of more of video consumption in the U.S., Santana concluded.

HBO Max, Latin America

HBO Max is already driving up production in Latin America, with over 50 projects in development, “working with the greatest producers in the region, several of whom we’ve signed up to deals,” said Marcelo Tamburri, VP scripted development, Warner Media, HBO & HBOMax, Mexico. Eight to nine productions are in final post-production and near ready for release.HBO and Turner Latin America have now merged production staff, and are working jointly on projects. In its first phase, HBO Max is targeting production in three areas: Mexico, Brazil and Argentina/Colombia, Tamburri said. “Our hallmark priority is to raise projects’ quality, look for projects with elements that mark them apart,” said Tamburri. The reference, he said, are “Spanish products which have crossed the ocean and been very well received here. That’s our way forward.”

Production – the Sea Change

Streaming platform production has transformed producers’ perspectives, said Tiago Mello at Brazil’s Boutique Filmes. Seven years ago, when he began developing “3%” with Netflix, Brazil had a sturdy state subsidy support system for feature films, and limited outlets for series on free-to-air networks. Now, Jair Bolsonaro’s government has destroyed state incentives, but there’s more space on platforms, he said. That space can bring challenges, commented Erik Barmack, who ordered “3%” when he was head of international at Netflix, and is now working with Mello on two projects. “There are more opportunities but the market’s more crowded,” he said. Barmack’s own solution to cut through the crush is “big IPs,” such as two video games he’s adapting into live action series – Sega’s “Yakuza” and “Kingdom Come: Deliverance.” “You need things that are gathering IP. That makes it a bit easier for me as a producer,” Barmack said.

Women, Diversity Gain Ground

Showcased at The Wit Fresh Formats Cancun, the anticipated “Armas de Mujer,” due to bow in 2021 on Peacock, stars Kate del Castillo as a mob wife whose placid life is interrupted when her husband is incarcerated. Along with other mob wives, she proceeds to take over the criminal organization.

Off-screen, women are also gradually moving more stage center in the Latin American and Latino industries. Citing the surge of strong female-led shows such as “I May Destroy You” and “Killing Eve,” MGM International TV’s senior VP of development and production Diego Piasek explained that he sought out playwright-TV writer Erika Halvorsen to serve as showrunner and executive producer on the series adaptation of Argentine bestseller “The End of Love: Desire and Sex.” “Argentina has a strong female storytelling tradition,” noted Halvorsen, who hopes to break the stereotypes imposed on women characters.

Sony Pictures Television is aiming for more diversity in its productions, said Ana Bond, SVP and MD of international production in Latin America. Speaking at MipCancun, Bond referenced such upcoming SPT projects as the drama series “We Are the Black Ones” with Colombian hip hop band ChocQuibTown, and a multi-project deal with Chilean scribe Jose Ignacio ‘Chascas’ Valenzuela, a prominent voice in the LGBTQ community, as some of the steps it has taken to reach its goal.

Aiming for Authenticity

The key to the Netflix original series “Selena: the Series,” premiering Dec. 4, was the “empowerment of voices behind the camera, identified as Latinos or Latinas, to give voice [to the Latino community]  and a sense of authenticity,” said Francisco Ramos, VP of Latin American Originals for Netflix. He was referring to “Selena” director Hiromi Kamata (“Historia de un Crimen: Colosio”), executive producer Jaime Davila at Campanario (“Camelia la Tejana”) and creator Moises Zamora (“American Crime”). The majority of the writer’s room was Mexican-American women, and Kamata and Katina Medina (“LuTo”), who directed episodes, are Mexican. “We’re committed to the authenticity and representation of who and how we are as Latinos,” said Ramos, arguing that it was the very specificity of “Selena” that made it universal. Authenticity proved a rallying cry at MipCancun. “We try to make projects authentic, with the attributes, slang and cultural adaptation of the region,” said Tamburri.

Turkish Empire

It was symptomatic that online panels at MipCancun, a dedicated Latin American TV market, were prefaced by teasers from Inter Medya and Kanal D, two Turkish companies. After conquering Latin America, Turkish series are now seducing Europe. “Woman” is a primetime hit in Spain, “Day Dreamer” and “Sisterhood” are ramping up ratings in Italy. Watch out, The Wit’s Virginia Mouseler commented, for the real-life inspired “The Red Room,” sold by Eccho Rights, where woman talk through their traumas with a Istanbul psychiatrist, and Turkish fall season ratings topper “The Innocents,” a classic interclass love story.

SVOD Takes on Fantasy Horror, Scales Up

OTT platforms are moving into fantasy and horror to court the YA crowd, including Brazilian Globoplay original “Unsoul” and HBO Europe’s “30 Coins,” a classic Alex de la Iglesia horror tragedy cocktail, Mouseler observed at her Fresh TV Fiction presentation. Illustrating high-end drama scaling up, Mouseler cited Amazon Prime Video’s “Inés of My Soul,” packaging a celebrated real-life figure, a famous novel source from Isabel Allende and high production values, and the soon-to-release “El Cid,” an Amazon bioseries turning on the famed legend with “Money Heist’s” Jaime Llorente.