May 2015
Volume 35 No. 4

May 2015
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Organic Market Testing Indies’ Faith, Patience With Gold Lure

By Sara Alessi

This year, on par with past years, expect some 65 indie companies to screen at the Century Plaza, the hotel in Los Angeles where content distributors from 15 countries meet with Latin American acquisition executives — in addition to some buyers from Europe and Asia. The Century Plaza will also house the LATAM divisions of the U.S. studios, for a total of 70 exhibitors, excluding Fox, which will be set up at the nearby InterContinental Hotel, and Paramount, which will be welcoming buyers at their lot in Hollywood.

For the studios, the L.A. Screenings will start on Friday, May 15, the day after the U.S. broadcast networks finish making their pilot selections for the new primetime TV season public in New York City.

However, Lionsgate and Paramount will start a day earlier, on Thursday — a few days before the indies begin vacating their hotel rooms-turned-exhibition suites for the occasion. Indie companies like Ledafilms and Starz Worldwide Distribution will open their suites on Tuesday, May 12 and be done by Friday, May 15. Televisa will operate from May 12-14 and Israel-based Armoza Formats will be opening up shop a day earlier, on Monday, May 11 and wrapping up on Saturday. Telefilms will be exhibiting May 12-18. Canada-based 9 Story Media Group will be in L.A. from May 12-15.

The studios, on the other hand, will conclude their screenings by May 22.
Interestingly, Delmar Andrade of Record TV Network told us, “We’ve been attending L.A. Screenings for 15 years, and we’ve made it our tradition to stay both weeks at this market (from May 12-21), considering the many business opportunities available and clients to meet.”

While the companies exhibiting at the Century Plaza will focus mainly on Latin buyers (Hispanic, pan-regionals and LATAM television for an estimated total of 150 buyers out of the 300 or so total), the studios will cater to over 1,500 buyers from 70 countries.

The reason the market doesn’t grow in terms of exhibitors is due to the distributors’ frustration with securing appointments with buyers, who tend to travel to L.A. mainly to screen the studios’ new TV season fare. In this respect, every year some disappointed distributor pulls out while some more wishful ones come in. This year, however, some of the non-returning exhibitors are no longer in the international distribution business, such as Argentina’s ARTEAR, the L.A.-based Estrella TV and veteran distributor Mel Giniger from Las Vegas.

Nevertheless, after realizing that all the buyers are in L.A., after a one-year hiatus, the prodigal distributors that are still active tend to return. This time, among the new arrivals are Turkey’s ATV and Kanal D.

But for the indies, the L.A. Screenings is not just a market for, as described by one seller, “waiting around all day long at a Century Plaza Hotel suite hoping for a buyer from Honduras to show up.” It is about being part of one of the most important U.S. and international TV industry events of the year, where the world’s top acquisitions executives gather in one city. It is also about meeting distribution companies in dire need of acquiring content for them to distribute. It is where license fees are determined, programming trends are defined and buyers’ preferences are established.

Joel Denton of A+E Networks told VideoAge that as the company ramps up its scripted content, it will plan to have a larger presence. In L.A., A+E concentrates on Latin buyers at the market and will focus on scripted content such as UnREAL, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, Sons of Liberty and Gangland Undercover as well as Smiles and Surviving Marriage.

In L.A., 9 Story will “focus on “new seasons of existing shows, as well as new shows that are premiering across LATAM on the major pan-regional services and dubbed content,” said Federico Vargas.

“Since the Screenings are so dominated by the studios, Starz Worldwide Distribution will continue to shift more focus to our presence at MIP-TV [they launched two upcoming STARZ Original Series in Cannes: Flesh and Bone and Ash vs. Evil Dead] and look to screen new content [at MIP-TV] before the L.A. Screenings,” said Gene George, EVP of Worldwide Distribution. He added that the company “still believes in the importance of the L.A. Screenings, however, we have come to view it as more of a follow-up market, allowing us to meet with our broadcast partners more informally, and finalize any pending MIP-TV deals.”

While in L.A., Caracol Television will present its new series, Laura, An Extraordinary Life, as well as documentaries and movies. Cisneros Media Distribution (CMD) will head to L.A. with two new variety shows, called Roxanna and La Revista de Zuleyka, as well as a telenovela titled Entre Mi Amor y Tu Amor. Marcello Coltro of CMD said that the company will host the opening cocktail in L.A. on Wednesday, May 13 at the Century Plaza, the same day as the Telefilms screenings and party. Overall there will be a total of 10 recreational events, while Telefe opted to celebrate the network’s 25th anniversary only in Buenos Aires.

Telemundo will introduce a new telenovela called Mirada de Angel and will continue to push its Superseries Slot concept. RCN Colombia will travel to L.A. with series Celia, Regálame la vida (working title) and Hilo de sangre azul. Meanwhile, Armoza Formats will highlight its two new primetime studio-based game shows, Babushka and Yum Factor.

9 Story’s Vargas noted, “If you are taking L.A. Screenings seriously, you need to see Latin America and you need to see the indies, so buyers will make the rounds, and the indies do have access to the buyers. It’s just a matter of timing.”

Starz’s George concurred: “We do meetings with mostly all of the key broadcasters from Europe, it is just a matter of having a strong slate of content and working around their studio screening schedules.”

A+E Networks’ Mayra Bracer summed it up best, “The market for the independents has continued evolving as the studio schedule has been condensed in the last few years. A+E has always been committed to going where the buyers will be, so as long as the buyers continue to attend L.A. Screenings, so will we.”