Latin American Panel on Unscripted: Form More Hubs, Strategic Alliances

With the Writers Guild strike dragging on, unscripted content is expected to dominate programming grids. A panel organized by C21 Media at the L.A. Screenings Independents on the format’s outlook in Latin America could not have been more timely.

Rising costs, shifting consumer tastes, the advent of streaming platforms and the sway of social media have indeed posed new challenges, even to such mainstays as Banijay’s “Big Brother.” One of Banijay’s biggest reality shows, it first broadcast in 1999 in the Netherlands and was syndicated to more than 60 countries worldwide.

“It was a gigantic challenge when we decided to produce ‘Big Brother’ again after 10 years had passed since the last edition,” said Guillermo Pendino, VP content and programming, FTA Brands, Latam Sur, Paramount (Argentina-Chile). “It was no longer the same world, there were the platforms, the social networks and you had to speak to a new audience, an audience that didn’t even know what ‘Big Brother’ was because they were still very young the last time it was broadcast,” he noted. “From Paramount we see the unscripted format as a great opportunity, especially at Telefe Argentina and Chilevisión,” he said.

After building a massive house for the reality show in Argentina where contestants lived together under the constant scrutiny of cameras, the key was to air it on as many platforms as possible including Paramount+, a Fast Channel, Pluto, and video game streaming site, Twitch, said Pendino, resulting in an unprecedented audience reach.

“Today ‘Big Brother’ is even more successful than it was 20 years ago, it offers multiple business opportunities, on and off the screen,” said Michelle Wasserman, Banijay Rights’ senior VP LatAm, U.S. Hispanic and Brazil, who pointed out that in 2022 alone, 64 of its formats have been adapted in Latin America.

Wasserman noted that musical reality show “Yo me llamo” has become Banijay’s most successful adapted program in Latin America. “It’s an interesting case as it was conceived in the Netherlands, where it went virtually unnoticed but when it was adapted in Latin America, it became a huge hit, airing in 11 countries in the region,” she said, adding that it ran for 40 seasons in Peru and ranks among the Top 5 most successful shows on private TV in Colombia.

Danny Sanz, chief operating officer of The ATS Team, which has offices in Los Angeles and London, observed that more producers from the U.S. and Europe were looking to Latin America for its competitive costs.

“The consumption of Spanish-language content is growing and changing. In recent years tastes have changed a lot, there is more flexibility when creating content,” he observed, adding that The ATS Team was looking to expand its operations in the region. 

But costs have risen, the panel acknowledged, not only because of inflation, but because the demand for premium content has risen, which leads to higher budgets.

The key is to form production hubs and more strategic alliances in order to lower costs, they agreed.

“It is time to rethink the model. The economies in terms of advertising revenue are falling. We have to go for more tailor-made models,” said Patricia Daujotas, director of content, Canal 10 (Uruguay)

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