Latin Americans Bid for Further International Market Impact at LA Screenings

Latin American companies have descended on the 60th LA Screenings, mindful of the ever-shifting panorama in content distribution and production. 

The ongoing writers’ strike is viewed by some as a boon for international content. Take what Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said at the company’s first quarter financials report presentation when the writers’ strike was looming: “If there’s a strike — and we want to work really hard to make sure we can find a fair and equitable deal so we can avoid one — but if there is one, we have a large base of upcoming shows and films from around the world.”

“The global market is finally realizing that Latin America, with almost 700 million inhabitants that speak the same language, is a territory that has a huge penetration in terms of OTT and – still – pay tv subscribers,” says Mexico City-based Manuel Marti, Fremantle’s head of scripted development, Latin America. “At the same time, it has a long history of producing local content with a distinctive genre that’s slowly being embedded into American culture via the 62 million Latinos that live in the U.S.,” he adds.

Pointing out the underrepresentation of Latino culture in the U.S., Marti notes that Latinos make up nearly 19% of the U.S. population but comprised only 5.3% of the share of broadcast TV roles in the 2018-19 season. “There’s a need for Latino content that could be easily fulfilled by Latin American content and producers,” he asserts. 

With sub-titles no longer an issue among viewers, exemplified by such massive hits as South Korea’s “Squid Game” and Spain’s “Money Heist,” Latin American content has grown ever more attractive. “We don’t work with mega budgets but the quality of our shows is good,” notes Lisette Osorio, VP of international sales at Colombia’s Caracol TV.

She points out that Caracol TV, as many of its counterparts in the region, is no longer making 100+ episode telenovelas, but instead makes 60-episode series to accommodate the streamers’ programming needs and the changes in consumers’ viewing habits.

Among the shows it takes to the Screenings is game show “El Desafio: The Box” a primetime hit for the past 19 years, sold to more than 45 countries and adapted in the U.S., Mexico, Russia, Greece and Romania, among others. In 2021, it was adapted by the makers of the Fortnite video game. Other outstanding Caracol titles include romantic drama “Devuélvema la vida,” docu-fiction hybrid “Escalona 30 años” and dramedy series “La vida despues del reality,” about a reality show contestant and the impact it has on her family and career. 

The Screenings have historically been an ideal event for Latin Americans to meet with all the key players and present their catalogs, says Eze Olzanski of EO Media which snagged all rights for Latin America on several celebrity-driven movies from Canal+ company SPI International in January and brings its catalog of 200+ titles to the LA Screenings. He points to the Star+ original boxing drama “Ringo: Glory & Death,” which EO Media co-produced and which launched globally via Star+ in Latin America, Disney+ in Europe and Hulu in the U.S. “It’s an example of what we can do in Latin America, a series that lives up to the quality standards of any American show,” he says. 

Among the titles EO Media will sell to Latin American clients are “The Upside,” the U.S. adaptation of French hit “The Intouchables,” with Nicole Kidman, Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart starring; “Corner Office” starring Jon Hamm and “Mack & Rita,” with Diane Keaton leading the cast.

The LA event has been key to in-person meetings, which the pandemic halted for two years. “Ours is a business of relationships after all,” says Osorio who laments that the studios recently held back on selling their titles as they ramped up their own streamers. However, news that Amazon has launched MGM Studios Distribution to start selling some of its content is good news and is likely to be followed by rivals.

“Looking forward, the ecosystem will look more and more like how it was before the advent of the platforms, now with the platforms included” observes Olzanski. “I believe that distribution windows will regain their importance as key elements in the strategy to monetize content beyond their initial sales trajectory.”

“The market is always evolving, and we need to pay attention to trends, as well as to be open to new negotiation models,” says Globo’s Angela Colla, head of international business and co-productions. “Strategic content partnerships are essential to get our series, documentaries, and telenovelas to growing audiences, but to do this we need the right partners, they need to be aligned with us,” she says, adding: “Besides creating content for our clients, we also need to consider growing the content in our proprietary platforms, like Globoplay, always putting consumers at the center of our decisions.” Aside from bringing its telenovelas, series and documentaries to the event, Globo is introducing “The Others,” a Globoplay Original urban thriller set in Rio de Janeiro.

The 60th LA Screenings run May 17 to 24. The first half, LA Screenings Independents, was held May 17-19. From May 20-24, the studios host screenings of their content.

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