May 2011
Volume 31 No. 3

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Flow Or Cow, Latin Buyers Are Studios’ Big Cash Entry

By Dom Serafini

The admiration is mutual: The U.S. studios focus on the Latin American buyers by having major operations in Miami, Florida and the Latin American buyers respond with ready cash, buying everything they produce or plan to produce. Visiting the Miami offices of Disney, Sony and CBS, one realizes how important the Latin region is to the studios. Warner Bros. also maintains large Latin operations in Miami; NBC Universal too has an office in Miami even though its Latin execs report to Madrid, Spain, while Fox distribution serves the large number of Latin territories from São Paulo, Brazil (while Fox Latin America channels are based in Miami).

Alexander Marin
STPI's Alexander Marin

The L.A. Screenings were started in 1964 in order to cater mainly to Latin American TV program buyers. Today, with over 300 buyers — without counting the 60 buyers from Spain and the 20 from Portugal — Latins still remain the largest contingent at the Screenings, surpassing the English-language delegation, the second largest contingent with 200 buyers.

According to a report in VideoAge’s December 2009 Issue, Latin America contributes 10 percent, or $1.5 billion a year, to the U.S. studios’ coffers. Considering the economic growth of Latin countries such as Brazil, the increased number of terrestrial digital TV channels is expected to reach 600 by 2020. This compares to today’s 120 terrestrial TV networks serving 91 million TVHH in the whole region.

Stephanie Pacheco, in charge of Latin America for CBS Studios International, stated that she expected Latin attendance at the Screenings to be “about the same as last year; well attended,” and noted that the strongest emerging territories in acquisitions have been Brazil, Puerto Rico, Colombia, and Nicaragua. Additionally, Pacheco elaborated that “stations have been buying a lot, and we expect them to continue with [these] Screenings.”

Where new Latin programming trends are concerned, Pacheco said she has not noticed anything in particular. “I don't see anything different emerging,” she said. “There is still strong interest in action and crime dramas.”

Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution Latin America’s São Paulo, Brazil-based exec Elie Wahba concurred that action programs remain hot properties. “Broadcasters are looking for action shows; the next 24,” he said. In response to this demand, Fox has in development a range of programs including Exit Strategy, REM, and Homeland, the latter of which has already been picked up by Showtime. Plus, he noted that the horror genre is on the rise, and that, as always, stations are looking for the next new breakout comedy.

As for the Latin presence at the Screenings, Wahba predicted it would be “the same as usual, [because there is] no space to increase.” He stated that buying from Latin America never really stopped, because the recession hit the region much less hard. Wahba also observed that there is no new Latin region on the ascent. Rather, the real emerging trend is the interest from new media.

Miami-based Alexander Marin of Sony Pictures Television also expected to see a similar showing as in past years from the Latins. “The Latin American attendance has remained steady,” he said, “It’s just as healthy and engaging as the past year’s attendance.” Marin too explained that, when it comes to the Latins, the recession did not affect broadcasters quite so drastically as in other regions. He said of Latin acquisitions execs, “They never stopped buying. They steadily continue to acquire our series.”

Additionally, Marin commented on rising trends. “The one-hour dramas have returned in a big way,” he said, adding, “We’re seeing an increased demand for primetime network and high appeal, male targeted programming from both broadcast and leading cable networks.” He also highlighted the ensemble series as a trend to watch. “It’s no longer the one big name driving a series. Instead some of the more successful series are supported by a talented cast, like our series, Community and Drop Dead Diva.