But the market is still viable
By Sara Alessi
After Eastern Europe, the Asian marketplace became a boom for Latin American television companies, and they responded in kind by flooding Singapore’s Asia TV Forum (ATF). However, with the region increasingly closing off to telenovelas, Latin producers and distributors began scaling down their ATF participation and sending junior executives to the three-day market, which begins on December 7 this year.
Azteca’s Martha Contreras
At the market’s zenith, there were over 20 Latin stands, which amounted to 22 percent of the total, in addition to those from Spanish and Portuguese companies. Now, Latin distribution companies constitute approximately 5.5 percent of the ATF exhibition stands, occupying only five out of a total of 90 stands. The companies are: Azteca from Mexico, Colombia’s Caracol, Brazil’s Globo TV International, Latin Media from Florida and Miami-based Televisa Internacional.
The aforementioned companies attended the event last year as well, but the numbers have decreased by one since 2010, since Telemundo Internacional, which participated in 2010, opted not to make the trip to Singapore this year. In 2009, seven Latin companies exhibited at the ATF, including Argentina’s Telefe Internacional. There were no Latin buyers registered for this year’s event at press time.
VideoAge caught up with some of the Latin distribution companies planning to set up shop at the ATF this year to gauge their expectations for the market.
Azteca has been attending for the past 11 years (the market is only in its 12th year). This December, Martha Contreras, Sales Asia, Comarex/Azteca will be in Singapore along with Comarex’s CEO, Marcel Vinay. Contreras noted that ATF is a valuable market because it gives the company the “opportunity to meet with all the key players in the region.” She added, “Over the years we have established an important business relationship in several countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. We are always looking to target and work in new territories.”
And they will certainly have a chance to interact with Asian buyers. Reed Exhibitions’ Yeow Hui Leng, Project director of ATF 2011, noted that organizers are “pleased to host group delegations from China, Finland, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, France and Spain this year.” She continued, “We are also seeing increased buyer participation from [countries in] the region including Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong [and] Taiwan, with new entries such as Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and New Zealand."
Azteca’s Contreras expects to build on the company’s success, “secure new territories, and keep our presence growing in the region.”
According to Leng, the most popular genres sold at the ATF are animation and children’s programs because they are “universal in appeal…rising above language and cultural differences.” She also noted that, “Next on the list will be dramas. With their soft and easy-to-digest content, they have wide support among the general Asian viewers. Formats, which can be easily adapted across borders into successful local programs, also remain popular among our buyers.”
That’s where many Latin distributors tend to fit in, due to their large supply of telenovelas. Azteca’s Contreras offered proof of Leng’s statement regarding telenovelas and formats: “The reality show La Academia, a singing contest in search [of] the next pop idol, has been produced all over Southeast Asia with excellent results and is still going very strong. Also the series What Women Keep In Silence (Lo Que Callamos Las Mujeres) has had a long run in Asia and is produced locally in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.”
In terms of new product, Azteca is looking to capitalize on the popularity of telenovelas in the region, and will introduce the following telenovelas to Asia for the first time: Under a Red Sky (Cielo Rojo) and Empress (Emperatriz). The company is also presenting its newest telenovela, Trading Lives (Huerfanas).
Like Azteca, Latin Media Corporation is also sending two executives: Managing directors Jose Escalante and Farid K. Ahmad. Escalante, who has already attended ATF with Latin Media twice, but has personally participated in the market on many other occasions, characterized the ATF as “a booming market for the television industry.” He told VideoAge that the Asian market is “coming up with new and refreshing formats” and “adapting telenovelas in [their] purest traditional form.” Escalante went on to say, “Production is in full swing in this part of the world, and therefore, in the telenovela genre, we can learn from them and offer our successful formats as well.”
He is looking to sell a host of telenovelas, including Pushovers; She, the Taxi Driver; Cholito; Bola Cinta; Pessonah Kassih and First Lady. In addition, Latin Media’s slate will include a number of series such as Back to Me, Life After Life and reality show Year Zero.
“The telenovela format is selling very well. Series and animations are also becoming strong in the area,” said Escalante.
He and his company will be targeting major Asian markets, including Singapore, Malaysia, China, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines and UEA, just to name a few. “All the markets are important, because in the end, you have to place your product,” Escalante explained.
Colombia’s Caracol will send only one executive. Roberto Corrente, Sales executive for Eastern Europe and Asia, reported that the company is “targeting not only our consolidated Asian territories, but we are also aiming to expand our presence in this region by exploring, connecting and understanding each territory’s content needs.” Caracol has attended ATF since 2005, and Corrente has found that “For us, the genre [that] sells best in the region is without a doubt classical drama.” However, he noted that “as viewers’ tastes are evolving, we are also witnessing preferences moving towards a more ‘down to earth drama,’ closer to our audience’s real day-to-day lives, in which there is always space for humor and laughs.” He remarked that a similar switch occurred in Latin America 10 years ago.
To meet Asian audiences’ programming desires, Corrente will be at the market with a number of telenovelas and series on display, including telenovelas The Secretary (El Secretario) and Yellow Team (Los Canarios) and series Broken Promises (La Promesa) and Infiltrated (Infiltrados). Expectations for these products are high, as Corrente said the company hopes to, “above everything else…‘surprise’ our clients, and to move our viewers with productions that won’t leave anyone indifferent.”
Globo TV International’s Raphael Correa Netto, head of International Sales, noted that the pay-TV market in Asia is growing, and it’s not surprising that, like the other Latin distributors, the company is "continuing to bet big on the telenovelas Passione and Cat’s Cradle,” which will be on display at the market.
Globo TV has been attending the ATF for over six years, and will send two executives this year. Correa Netto said the company has found that the market provides “a chance for relationship building, to search for an ever-deepening understanding of the countries, clients, culture and mainly the market.” He went on to say, “We’re consolidating ourselves more and more in South Korea, Macau, Timor and Singapore, and looking for growth opportunities in India, Japan, China and Australia.”
According to ATF organizer Reed Exhibitions’ Leng, over 850 companies from more than 53 countries attended the ATF in 2010, representing a 15 percent increase in the number of participating companies compared to the year before. This year, organizers expect to draw 3,500 attendees.
In addition to being Asia’s media hub, Singapore’s officials are striving to make the city-state appealing for technical facilities and services, and are offering financial incentives to producers and distributors for their productions. A good number of Western media companies maintain offices in Singapore, including NBC Universal.
This year, ATF will be held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre at Marina Bay Sands for the first time. This marks the third venue change in the market’s history. The theme for 2011 is: “Evolve, Explore and Experience.”