November/December 2011
Volume 31 No. 6

November/December 2011
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LAM Local Production: Opportunity For Growth

By Dom Serafini

Latin America is known for its telenovelas, which are successfully exported within and outside the region both in finished form and as formats. But another form of production has now reached critical mass: Versions of U.S. series produced exclusively for a particular Latin territory or for a pan-regional network. All U.S. studios have jumped on the LAM local production bandwagon and mini-majors, such as FremantleMedia and A+E, are in pursuit. LAM local productions are so successful that studios are now exporting them into other regions. For example, in Turkey a local version of Desperate Housewives is currently on the air.

Maurizio Zuccarini

FME’s Sheila Hall Aguirre

Elie Wahba, SVP Latin America & Caribbean for 20th Century Fox Distribution, said that, “Fox has entered into this [LAM local production] business this year having in full production the Colombian version of Wonder Years, a pilot of Dharma & Greg, a contract on How I Met Your Mother, and is in negotiation for other shows.” At present, Fox productions are for local networks, and genres consist of comedies and dramas from original scripts only, while Fox's formats are now handled by Shine International.

Wahba also explained that, “Fox for now is not in the co-production business, but may be in the future.” All of Fox's local productions are completed in Latin America in the country that has acquired them. If they are for a Spanish-language country, the accent used is neutral. Dubbing is used if needed. On the other hand, talent is selected by the network and presented to Fox for approval and/or suggestions.

Wahba expects “finished products to travel at least throughout Latin America and the U.S. Hispanic world, but we feel that the adaptations can have good reception in other parts of the world, too.”

A Sony Pictures Television (SPT) spokesperson reported that, “To date we have focused on quality, long-form scripted content production. We have also committed ourselves to light entertainment production throughout the region. Currently, Floresta [SPT's São Paulo, Brazil-based company] is producing a local version of the U.S. talk show The Dr. Oz Show, which was recently extended for an additional 44 episodes following its successful debut in Brazil.”

Additionally, SPT's Floresta and Brazilian network Band TV signed a three-year co-production deal to produce three primetime sitcoms that will premiere on Band. Floresta will produce the co-productions, and the first sitcom scheduled to be made is a local version of U.S hit comedy The Nanny. The 180 episodes of the series will air Monday through Friday next year. The remaining two co-productions will be either local versions of formats from SPT's scripted format catalogue, or original productions. After running on CBS in the U.S. for six years, local versions of The Nanny have been produced in nine countries, including Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico and Russia.

s for genres, SPT is making a strong push toward “teleseries,” an emerging genre combining storytelling elements from both novelas and series into daily shows with a 60-to-90-episode run, while also focusing on sitcoms, classic novelas, dramedies or straight drama series. On the unscripted side, SPT continues to develop successful formats in the region, including Dancing Nation in Brazil. Productions are generated both from formats and original scripts and are mostly for local networks.

SPT's spokesperson explained that, “Our local LAM productions are primarily produced in Latin America. The region offers an unbeatable mix of talent — both behind and in front of the camera — competitive cost structures, inquisitive producers, infinitely variable landscapes and cityscapes, and, most importantly, broadcasters committed to the best possible storytelling.” She also added that, “there are tremendous opportunities for co-productions in the region. Building on our successful relationship with Caracol Televisión in Colombia, we recently signed a three-year co-production agreement, combining our expertise in creating and producing high-quality Spanish-language telenovelas and teleseries and distributing them around the world. Some of our most popular shows such as Amar y Temer, (Caracol), Rosario Tijeras (Telefutura) and La Pola (RCN) are co-productions.”

Since 2006, five versions of Disney Media Networks Latin America's Desperate Housewives, or Amas De Casa Desesperadas, have been produced in the region. The Argentinean version is broadcast in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay; the Colombian and Ecuadorian versions air in Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Panama, and have been sold to Japan; the U.S. Hispanic version is broadcast in the U.S., Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic; and the Brazilian version (Donas De Casa Desesperadas) airs in Portuguese in Brazil.

Early this year, DMNLA signed a three-year agreement with Turner Broadcasting System for the third season of The Amazing Race for TBS's SPACE channel. Based in Argentina, SPACE carries the reality show exclusively for all of Latin America. The Amazing Race was first produced for Discovery Channel.

Additionally, an adaptation of Disney-ABC's Grey's Anatomy, titled Corazón Abierto, was made for Colombia's RCN, and DMNLA produced Millionario, the Latin version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire for Mexico's Azteca 7. Plus, an adaptation of Touchstone's classic sitcom The Golden Girls has been produced in Venezuela. Called Los Años Dorados, it airs on cable and broadcast TV throughout Latin America. A second version, Las Chicas de Oro, was produced for Spain's TVE and was also broadcast in Latin America.
Leonardo Aranguibel and Fernando Barbosa serve as executive producers for DMNLA.

Sheila Aguirre, SVP, Sales and Development, Latin America and Hispanic USA for FremantleMedia said, “We've seen a great increase in the production of our formats across the region. FremantleMedia has a global network of production companies which includes Mexico and Brazil, and we work with broadcasters in other territories to ensure a high quality rollout of our shows all across Latin America. In Mexico, for instance, we produce game shows like Pokerface, Password and others, while in Brazil we produce shows like Idols, which is now up to its sixth series, as well as Project Runway and Password. In Chile, we have Take Me Out, a second season of Got Talent, the premiere season of the X Factor, and seasons one and two of My Name Is on the way. Got Talent also aired a third season in Argentina and we have a growing number of programs on air elsewhere in the region.”

FME covers a wide range of formats, from musical to fashion design, art, and traditional game shows. “We have formats for all tastes and needs,” Aguirre added, expanding, “We work with pan-regional cable, and have a strong emphasis on local business. We produce in several territories including Brazil, Mexico and the U.S. In recent years we have worked mostly out of Latin America, but this year we produced Project Runway Latin America out of the U.S.”

Aguirre said that local LAM productions can also be co-productions and “a good example is Idol Puerto Rico, which we are co-producing with WAPA with great results. We look to make it the best local production possible — first and foremost, it must be successful in its original market.”

“Talent and participants use their native accents. It is important that local productions have local personalities,” Aguirre explained.

She went on to say, “We look for talent that makes great television. Where we license a format, rather than produce it, we do mandate approval over certain talent for specific formats. We are not necessarily looking for the 'Latino Simon Cowell or Paula Abdul.' We want to be sure that the talent is right for the role, and that he or she brings something uniquely special to the program. We want to ensure that the talent chosen has the right expertise to carry out the role with credibility. We need to be certain that when they are brought together, all talent on the program creates the right environment — whether it is camaraderie, rivalry or otherwise, they need that driving force where they can play off of each other and have good rapport.”

Finally, when VideoAge asked if local LAM productions travel well across various territories as finished products, Aguirre answered, “In general, we do not distribute the local versions across territories, but it really does depend on the product, and in some cases they do travel. For example, the Mexican and U.S. Spanish-language versions of Family Feud traveled well. Likewise, the Argentine productions generally travel to Uruguay.”

Eddy Ruiz, EVP and general manager of A+E Ole Network said that, “We continue to increase year to year the number of original production hours that we produce in the region. The amount of hours varies by network. Our ability to program our networks by feed gives us the flexibility to segment our programming to individual countries or regions.”

Ruiz added that genres vary by network, “For History we produce documentaries, reality type competition, docu-drama, travel and others. For A+E we are producing crime/police unscripted, scripted drama, realities such as Intervention, Hoarders and now our latest production out of Mexico, El Luchador. This is a reality series based on the day-to-day life of four well known 'Lucha Libre' [wrestling] personalities. On Bio we produce biographies and other formats such as I Survived. In addition to these genres of programming, we produce web exclusive content for all of our productions.”

Ruiz also explained, “the majority of our productions are intended for the entire region, but others are market-specific,” and that productions are generated from a combination of formats from A+E Networks or others, as well as original scripted and non-scripted series. He then added: “We have our production team based out of Buenos Aires. All of our productions are produced locally in the region, not in the U.S.

“We do casting calls in search of new talent or depending on the production, we may decide to go after a locally recognizable individual that fits the product and the targeted demographic…[and] we do make an effort to use as neutral a Spanish as possible,” he said.

In terms of co-production, Ruiz said, “We have done numerous co-productions. We have in place a number of agreements with local production houses that co-produce product for us.” However, when asked if local LAM productions travel well as finished products, he answered: “In my experience it has been very difficult to find local productions that travel well throughout the region. The first major hurdle in our territory is Brazil. Not only is there a language difference, but a cultural difference as well. Then you add the cultural differences between Mexico and, say, Argentina or even Chile, and the chances of success diminish."

LAM's local production is now open to indie producers as well. Claudio Villarruel, a former in-house producer for Telefe, is the co-founder of ON-TV, a Buenos Aires-based independent production company that has seen success with various programming genres. He is also in charge of the content for 360tv, one of the first digital channels to air in Argentina.

“The core of our production is drama. We have been producing series (13 episodes) and telenovelas (60-150 episodes) [in recent] years,” said Villarruel, adding, “Our Contra las Cuerdas (Against The Ropes) has been nominated for best telenovela at the International Emmy Awards. A local version of Against The Ropes is being produced in Colombia. We have also produced game shows like 3,2,1 Win, whose local version is now on the air in Colombia,” he said.

Villarruel explained that, right now ON-TV's main focus is on local networks, with programs produced in Latin America that can also travel across the region as finished product.
As far as the type of Spanish accent his productions use, Villarruel stated, “We produce with the Spanish accent of the country where we produce and select local talent, based on the story we want to tell."