VI World summit of the
telenovela and fiction


Coproduction and alliances
The key to compete in the international market

Amanda Ospina, at the birthplace of Mozart in
Salzburg, during her visit in Viena

To increase the number of productions and coproductions and to turn strategic countries into centers of series and telenovelas: that is the challenge for the fiction industry to deal with the world crisis. The potential number of countries that can coproduce with Latin America is underlying, as already shown by Spain, Portugal, France, Poland, Italy, Russia, India, the U.S. and also China, which join Latin American countries that are already into coproduction partnerships with excellent results.

Coproduction bilateral agreements can be good tools to facilitate content creation and increment. An example of format adaptation to the local market is the one provided by Lilybeth Gomez Rasonable at the VI Worldwide Summit of Telenovela and Fiction Industry, explaining that GMA and ABS are the only two relevant players in the Philippine TV market. In her country, coproduction experiences are just a few, and own

productions take the lead. The executive described the recent success of the formats Marimar and Lalola in the Philippines.

Format sales are increasing exponentially with profits of 2,500,000 euros a year, though 50% of them are concentrated on game and reality shows and on two countries: United Kingdom, with 32%of the exports, and Holland, with 19%. “We still cannot compete with companies like Freemantle and Endemol”, said at the summit Michelle Wasserman, International Sales Director of Telefé International, adding that that is the reason why they decided to focus on fiction exportation. Though format sales are growing exponentially, the business of canned products is still very strong and will be even more so not only with the advent of digital television and the extension of broadcasting platforms but also with the need of more leisure activities generated by the crisis, where fiction becomes an antidote.
The average profits produced by one exported programming hour are approximately 30,000 dollars, and this makes the business of canned programs move more than 2 billion dollars a year and continue being, even today, larger than format sales.

Although a single sale of an international format equals 15 of canned products, the use of new platforms will balance canned‑program and format sales. Formats are mainly sold to countries with strong production facilities (20%) and open and panregional pay TV broadcasters, whereas canned products are mainly aimed at the other 80% in smaller markets not so well prepared for own fiction production. An encouraging piece of news is that, thanks to the internationalization strategy, Telefe revenues abroad moved from representing 2% in 1995 to more than 25% in 2007.

The sale of formats is not easy business. One of the most controversial aspects is their length and adaptation to the local culture, which turns negotiating into long and sometimes difficult processes. For instance, in Asia it is not usual to negotiate series formats of more than 60 episodes. The negotiation of international royalties is another essential aspect, as sometimes the original and the adapted versions are broadcasted simultaneously in the same territory.
Format exportation is a young business and people learn with the passing of time; today the method is to keep property rights over the international distribution of the adaptations.

In fiction, does format exportation mean selling the book? The fact is fiction has become global and this opens an umbrella of financing opportunities. And the evidence is Latin American coproductions based on good stories are already circulating. Patito Feo was originated in Argentina by Ideas del Sur, Televisa, Canal 13 and former Buena Vista ‑ Disney. Moreover, internationally oriented stories are emerging as well in response to this situation; such is the case of Lalola, acquired by more than 60 countries. However, in a creativity‑based business, one always fears a shortage of good ideas, the difficulties imposed to good productions and the search for successful formats. Particularly when we face challenges like the downward trend of factual programming and the increase of entertainment programs in European Union countries especially.

The changes in this years winter U.S. programming have been noticeable, marked by Japanese game shows and fiction. In spite of actors strikes, some very successful series came up, like 90210 and The Latest Cult (on open TV) and Time Blood and Rising the Bar (on cable TV). Thus, most trading expectations are set in canned program and format sales. Opportunities are there for independent producers who can form alliances with producers and international channels. Writers will be the first to benefit from the situation, provided they know how to take advantage of it and how to broad income sources. We have to keep up to date with negotiations, as format sales not always mean script sales. You can buy and sell a scheme instead of the story or format, something that happened with the Lalola adaptation in Chile, where Canal 13 acquired the format
containing only the first episode and then Chilean creatives made their own stories, twists and structure. What is certain is that even though the concept of format seems to be clear in other genres like games or entertainment, it does not seem to be so in television fiction. People not always buy the fiction product subtext. When it comes to acquiring a product, they consider aspects like audience measurements in the countries the production was launched already, but do not reflect on the social and cultural context where stories take place.

To finish the analysis we can cite, as an example of this essential aspect, the case of Brazil, where format adaptation has been a failure so far. In conclusion, we see three trends in the U.S. that constitute negotiation models to follow: coproductions, foreign acquisitions and producing abroad. An example of an international coproduction is The Listener, which belongs to NBC and the Canadian network CTV, with the advantage of having a U.S. network committed to its broadcast. An example of acquisition is the Telecolombia production Mental, acquired by Fox Studios for their international channels, first time ever something like this was done. Finally, due to operating costs among other reasons, U.S. networks are making their productions abroad; such is the case of Robinson Crusoe or The Philanthropist.

ONLY TELENOVELAS, Fiction & Formats › Year V ›14th edition › January › February 2009 › NATPE › MIPTV

Executive Director:
Amanda Ospina

Marcela Herrán

Editorial and Writing Assistance:
Florencia Cunzolo, Brenda Focas, Mariana Romina
Marcaletti and Leonor Pancorbo

Translation of Texts:
Eduardo Fasnacht, Silvia Flores and Mariela Focas

Translation Assistance:
Silvia Flores and Mariana Romina Marcaletti

Design & Diagramation
José Luis Martín Márquez

José Carlos

International Marketing and
Communication Director:
Leonor Pancorbo

Germany, Patricia Salazar
Argentina, Florencia Cunzolo,
Brenda Focas and Fernanda García
Colombia, Claudia Beltrán
and Monica Moreno

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