Tag Archives: Televisa

¡Viva España!

Without much noise or fanfare, Spain has been steadily building a reputation as one of the hottest producers of scripted drama, with homegrown series finding fans around the world. DQ takes an in-depth look at the wave of new series coming out of the country.

Spanish drama may not attract as much attention as Nordic noir or the ‘Korean wave,’ but there’s no question the country’s scripted series are now enjoying decent levels of profile around the world. And with significant increases in content investment from free-to-air (FTA) channels, pay TV and SVoD platforms, Spain’s storytellers are poised to deliver a new wave of diverse and ambitious shows to the international market.

One of the first firms to identify the potential of Spanish drama was German distributor Beta Film, which was responsible for the international roll-outs of Gran Hotel and Velvet, two exquisite period pieces produced by Bambú Producciones for FTA network Antena 3.

According to Beta Film executive VP for acquisitions and sales Christian Gockel, the success of the Bambú/Antena 3 partnership convinced his company to board two new productions from the same stable: Morocco – Love in Times of War and Farinia – Snow on the Atlantic. “They have raised the bar yet again by taking the unique blend of romance and drama we know so well from Velvet,” he says.

Morocco, says Gockel, is set in war-torn Spanish Morocco in the 1920s, where a group of nurses look after troops. Farinia, meanwhile, “centres on a fisherman who becomes a wealthy smuggler by providing South American cartels a gateway to Europe.”

Farinia is a good indicator of how Antena 3 – the dominant force in FTA drama – has diversified its slate in recent times. The channel also launched Vis a Vis (pictured above), a female-prison drama produced by Mediapro drama label Globomedia. Distributed by Mediapro sales arm Imagina under the title Locked Up, that show broke into the English-speaking market, airing on Channel 4 in the UK and on foreign-language SVoD service Walter Presents.

Gran Hotel was produced by Bambú Producciones for Antena 3

Walter Presents also picked up fellow Antena 3/Globomedia drama Pulsaciones (Lifeline). The psychological thriller is about a surgeon who unravels a medical scandal after suffering a heart attack and having strange nightmares when he receives a donor heart. “Last year, Locked Up exploded onto the international scene, heralding a renaissance in Spanish scripted excellence,” says Walter Presents curator Walter Iuzzolino. “This year they’ve done it again. Lifeline is a thriller with shock narrative twists and epic cliffhanger endings.”

The growing appeal of Antena 3-commissioned drama to the global market is further underlined by a deal that will see Netflix air miniseries The Cathedral of the Sea around the world. Based on Ildefonso Falcones’ bestselling novel and produced by leading Spanish prodco Diagonal, the story takes place in 14th century Barcelona during the Inquisition.

Explaining his remit, Antena 3 senior VP for drama Nacho Manubens says: “Although we produce sporadically for our other channels [laSexta, Neox], we mainly focus on Antena 3. We commission more than 600 hours of TV per year, with 120 primetime hours and 500 daytime hours. We have a range of genres, since our audiences demand variety and innovation. In thrillers we have had hits with Bajo Sospecha, Mar De Plastico and Vis a Vis. In period dramas we have had El Tiempo Entre Costuras and Velvet. These are both lines we will continue exploring.”

Antena 3 has developed a reputation for edgy shows – something Manubens wants to maintain. “We cannot take risks in every show we produce, but we try to keep making shows that push the envelope like we did with Casa De Papel [aka The Money Heist, the latest show from Via a Vis creator Alex Pina].”

Sé Quién Eres (I Know Who You Are) was a hit for Mediaset España

Public broadcaster RTVE and Mediaset Espana, owner of commercial networks TeleCinco and Cuatro, have also upped their scripted game. For RTVE, key titles have been El Ministerio del Tiempo (The Ministry of Time) and Isabel, produced by Onza Partners/Cliffhanger and Diagonal respectively. Isabel, one of several royal-themed shows on the market, ran for three seasons and travelled well internationally. Buoyed by its success, RTVE also made a foray into English-language drama with Reinas (Queens), about the rivalry between Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I.

Mediaset España, meanwhile, had a hit with Sé Quién Eres (I Know Who You Are), a Filmax production about a charismatic university lecturer’s possible involvement in his niece’s murder. The show was bought by several networks, including the influential BBC4 – its first Spanish acquisition – with head of BBC programme acquisitions Sue Deeks calling it “the dramatic equivalent of a page-turning thriller.” Mediaset España’s increased investment in event series has also seen it back Forgive Me God, an eight-part miniseries about a nun battling delinquency and the drug trade.

Alongside the increased ambition among FTA channels, there are also new opportunities in the pay TV and SVoD arenas, according to Pilar Blasco, MD of Endemol Shine Iberia, a division that includes Diagonal. “Spain has always been a strong market for local original scripted programming and this has enabled us to build an industry of creative writers, showrunners and directors,” she says. “The big game-changer, however, has been increased commissioning of Spanish productions from the likes of Movistar+, Netflix, HBO and Amazon. As a result, the Spanish drama industry is flourishing with higher budgets that tell more daring stories from a broader range of genres.”

The most high-profile example of Blasco’s point is Telefónica’s decision to invest €70m (US$84m) a year in scripted series for its pay TV platform Movistar+. According to Domingo Corral, head of original programming at Movistar+, the plan is to launch 11 original series a year, initially for SVoD customers. The emphasis will be on “Spanish-language series dealing with Spanish stories created by Spanish talent,” he says.

Movistar+ drama La Zona is set four years after a nuclear accident

Titles include La Zona, a story set in northern Spain four years after a nuclear accident. Also coming soon is La Peste, set in 16th century Sevilla against the backdrop of a plague. Movistar+ has also done a deal with Bambú for a spin-off from Madrid fashion-store series Velvet, which ended on Antena 3 after four seasons. The new series, Velvet Collection, will take the story forward to the 1960s and relocate to Barcelona.

At first sight, Corral’s insistence on super-charged Spanish series seems like it will limit their international appeal. But he takes the view that “great storytelling and characters have universal appeal.” Besides, he adds, Movistar+ series will have 50-minute episodes, rather than the 70 minutes typical to Spain. This will make them a better fit for the global market. Also, Movistar+ has spared no expense on talent, pulling in writers and directors from the country’s admired cinema scene.

Beta Film is continuing its relationship with the Velvet franchise and is also distributing La Zona, says Gockel. “We believe La Zona is one of the most exciting shows coming from Spain this year. It’s an innovative eco-crime thriller with a high budget that will catch viewers around the globe.”

About Premium Content has picked up rights to eight-part mob thriller Gigantes, while Sky Vision has secured global rights to La Peste, which is budgeted at €10m for six episodes. Sky Vision MD Jane Millichip gives an upbeat assessment of Movistar+’s shows: “With La Peste, they have assembled an incredible team with a proven track record. The partnership of Alberto Rodriguez and Rafael Cobos has delivered a deeply engaging story that delivers a thriller of scale, a pungent sense of the past and a modernity that will satisfy audiences.”

Big-budget series La Peste is being distributed by Sky Vision

Movistar+’s investment in drama is especially timely given the growing competition. In April, Netflix launched Las Chicas del Cable, another sumptuous period piece from the Bambú stable that tells the story of four young women working for Spain’s national telephone company in the 1920s.

Also muscling in on the Spanish market is Fox Networks Group (FNG), which has just done a deal with Mediapro’s Globomedia that will see future series of Via a Vis air on its pay TV networks, rather than on broadcaster Antena 3. This is Fox’s first foray into original scripted series, with Vera Pereira, exec VP of FNG Iberia, saying it “will give us greater visibility and relevance in the market.”

Success in scripted formats is also contributing to Spain’s creative revival, with Star-Crossed (The CW), Red Band Society (Fox) and The Mysteries of Laura (NBC) all reimagined for the US market. Televisa USA is also teaming with Lantica Media to produce an English-language Gran Hotel, while Lionsgate has been linked to a US adaptation of Bambú’s Velvet.

The final dimension to the Spanish market’s new dynamism relates to the ambition of the producers. Bambú is part of StudioCanal and has coproduced time-travel drama Refugiados (Refugees) with BBC Worldwide. Diagonal, meanwhile, sees projects like The Cathedral of the Sea as a new phase. “It is a huge leap for the company as it moves into international coproductions,” observes Blasco. “It’s an ambitious project that would never have been commissioned without the support of Netflix.”

Velvet Collection follows on from Velvet

Another leading Spanish producer, DLO, recently became part of the Banijay network and has also picked up a commission from Movistar+ — a series based on Julia Navarro’s best-selling historical novel Dime Quien Soy. In a similar vein, Lagardère Active-owned producer Boomerang is well-known for El Tiempo Entre Costuras (The Time in Between), a 2013 hit for Antena 3 that went on to sell into 75 territories. Now the company has identified Latin America as a key expansion opportunity and is working on a brace of series for broadcasters in Chile. Bambú is also building its profile in Latin America, via a development deal with Televisa in Mexico.

Mediapro is also involved in an eclectic mix of domestic and international series. It coproduced English-language drama The Young Pope and is working on Paradise, a Finnish-Spanish copro that takes place in a Spanish village on the Costa del Sol with a large Finnish community. Other projects include The Head, a copro with Sweden’s Dramacorp in which 10 scientists, trapped in a laboratory at the South Pole, realise one is a killer. “We are also working with DirecTV Latin America on El Fútbol no es Así, a crime series set in the world of Spanish football,” says Mediapro head of content Javier Mendez.

While Mendez welcomes the influx of pay TV drama funding, he says a key opportunity for Mediapro is the international market – especially in light of the fact it has a distribution arm, Imagina. “Series like Narcos show it is possible to find great stories that have the ability to travel all over the world,” he explains. “Increasingly, our strategy is to back good stories regardless of where they come from, because there is a huge appetite for drama around the world.”

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Novela titans at Natpe

From romance and comedy to politics and crime, the Latin drama line-up at Natpe 2017 looks as entertaining as ever. DQ examines some of the new titles being showcased at the Miami event.

In recent years, Miami programme market Natpe has firmly established itself as a global distribution hub. However, its location means it is also an exceptionally strong platform for telenovelas and other forms of Latino drama. As in previous years, the 2017 edition will see a broad array of launches from leading players like Globo, Televisa, Telemundo and Telefe.

Parts of Me follows a lonely man who finds out he’s the father of seven kids

Brazilian giant Globo is in Miami with a large slate of titles including Lady Revolution, a telenovela about a woman striving to achieve her dream of freedom in the 18th century, and Parts of Me, a telenovela about a lonely man who finds out he’s the father of seven kids.

The broadcaster also has a telenovela that fits neatly into the recent trend towards time travel stories. Entitled Time After Time, the show is a love story centring on a young couple called Livia and Felipe. Prevented from living a love story in the 19th century, they are given a second chance 150 years later when their souls return in a different context but with a love just as intense and true as before. In Brazil, the show reached 173 million viewers (according to Ibope) and generated around 654,000 comments on social networks.

Above Justice follows four different people arrested over a single night

Globo, more than most Latin American companies, has made an effort to internationalise its offering. While telenovelas are still the cornerstone of its output, the company is also at Natpe with a number of shorter shows. One is the 16-episode series Above Justice, headed by Avenida Brasil co-director Jose Luiz Villamarim. With its high-profile cast, the show follows four different people arrested over a single night in Brazil’s Atlantic coast city of Recife. Slowly, their storylines intertwine in a narrative turning on crime, justice and revenge. At home, the show was a big hit, securing 41 million viewers a day.

Also on Globo’s slate are 10-episode limited series Nothing Remains the Same, a love story set in the 1950s; and Supermax, a psychological thriller, also 10-episodes. The latter show will be especially interesting to international buyers because it has been produced in Spanish – as opposed to Globo’s native Portuguese. The goal is for the show to be sold to Hispanic US and Spanish-speaking South American markets, though the length means it should attract attention outside the Americas.

The Candidate follows a woman who challenges her corrupt politician husband

Vying for attention with Globo will be Mexican heavyweight Televisa, arguably the leading force in telenovela exports. Titles at Natpe include A Beloved Man, My Sweet Curse, In Love With Ramon, No Trace Of You, Love Divina and The Candidate. Between them, these titles cover the romance, comedy, melodrama and teen genres. Probably the most high profile is The Candidate, which follows a woman’s decision to challenge her corrupt politician husband for the role of president. There is, of course, also a love triangle involving an old flame.

Most of Televisa’s Natpe titles come in batches of 60 or 120 episodes. The exception is No Trace of You, a 10-part drama. In this one, Julia, a young paediatrician with a promising future, vanishes the night before her wedding. Five years later, a college student discovers a woman in a wedding gown, beaten, and covered in blood. It’s Julia – sans memory.

Iron Lady centres on a prosecutor tracking the drug lord who killed her father

One big theme in telenovelas has always been empowered women (The Candidate, La Patrona, La Duena etc). Mexico’s other major telenovela player TV Azteca Internacional (TVAI) has an example on its slate in the shape of Iron Lady, about a strong-willed prosecutor on the trail of the drug lord who killed her father. Also on the TVAI slate are titles such as Nothing Personal, Missing Bride, What Women Keep in Silence and Living To Race. The latter is a high-octane action drama that uses the legend of Mexican racing drivers Ricardo and Pedro Rodriguez as the backdrop to a contemporary racing series.

Telemundo Internacional is the distribution arm of Hispanic US network Telemundo. Its Natpe slate includes hot new title El Chema, which started airing in December. A spin-off of the extremely popular and long-running drug baron series El Señor de los Cielos (The Lord of the Skies), the show follows Chema Venegas’ first years working in Mexico’s world of organised crime and his ascent to become the renowned cartel leader seen in the parent show. The decision to spin off a show is no real surprise given that El Señor de los Cielos has now racked up in the region of 340 episodes on Telemundo.

El Chema was spun off from popular and long-running series El Señor de los Cielos

Other titles on Telemundo’s slate include La Doña, Ambar and La Fan, which tells the story of a passionate fan of a famous telenovela actor. One day, fate brings the two together. At first, he hardly notices her, but before long he can’t imagine his life without her. La Doña, meanwhile, is based on Doña Barbara, a novel by Romulo Gallegos. Typically telenovela, it is the story of a strong-willed, ruthless woman who brings bad men to justice (another example of the fascination with strong women).

One big news story on the eve of Natpe was that Mexico-based distributor Comarex has taken control of the rights to Cisneros Media Distribution (CMD)’s catalogue outside the US and Spain. The deal is reckoned to involve around 30,000 hours of programming. Comarex will be at Natpe with CMD’s content as well as shows from Canal 13 in Chile and Canal 11 in Mexico.

A Thread of Blue Blood looks at the death of a financial expert and a journalist’s bid to solve the case

Key titles from Venezuela-based CMD include Entre Tu Amor Y Mi Amor (Separated by Love), which follows the story of a young woman, Sol, who leaves her country home for the city in search of a better life. Here she falls in love with Alejandro, not knowing he is the son of the evil woman who swindled her parents and had them killed when she was a baby. The show has already been licensed to US streaming platform Glosi.

From Canal 13 Chile, Comarex will have Preciosas (Runaways), the story of four women who meet while serving time in jail. They include Lorena, a 30-year-old who has been wrongly convicted of the murder of Juan Pablo, a co-worker. Lorena seeks to clear her name with the help of Alex, her defence lawyer and with whom she will (surprise!) have a romance.

The regional variety of shows at Natpe is enhanced by the presence of Telefe Internacional (Argentina), RCN (Colombia) and Caracol Internacional (Colombia). The former is in Miami with titles such as Dear Daddies, Love After Love, Educating Nina, The Return of Lucas and ratings hit Story of a Clan (35% share on Telefe in a weekday 23.00 slot). The latter continues the fascination with Latino crime families, telling the story of the real-life Puccio crime family. Strong Latino women is again the subject in telenovela Lioness, about a female textile factory worker who rallies her fellow worker to gain rights (while falling in love with the new factory owner along the way).

Caracol’s contribution to the fun is A Carnival Affair, Pursuit of a Dream and Surviving Pablo Escobar Alias JJ, the latter based on the book by John Jairo Velasquez, who was a lieutenant in the drugs lord’s gang. RCN, meanwhile, is promoting Ruled By Love, Azucar and A Thread of Blue Blood. The latter revolves around the death of a financial expert and the attempt by a journalist to discover the cause. All RCN titles are 70 episodes or more.

All of the above players are local producer-broadcasters, which tends to be the norm in the Latin American telenovela business. But there are a few notable exceptions. Sony Pictures Television, for example, has some celebrity-themed telenovelas nestling in amongst its slate of international dramas. These include Paquita La Del Barrio, about the life and career of Mexican singer Francicsa Viveros; and Blue Demon, the fictionalised life story of the famed Mexican wrestler.

Séries Mania 2016 Grand Prix winning crime drama El Marginal

Israel’s Dori Media is another company that long ago identified the global appeal of Latino-produced telenovelas. At Natpe, its key titles include Por Amarte Asi (Loving You), which follows the twists and turns in the life of a father and daughter who get a chance to fall in love with partners despite the difficult circumstances that brought them together. Echoing the trend identified above, Dori has also been exploring non-telenovela options. For example, at Natpe it will present the Séries Mania 2016 Grand Prix winning crime drama El Marginal, a coproduction from Underground Producciones and TV Publica. Created by Sebastian Ortega. El Marginal premiered on TV Publica in Argentina in June last year, where it has gone on to more than triple its timeslot ratings on the channel.

Another company that sits outside the norm is Argentine producer POL-KA, which will be at Natpe under its own banner. Titles on its slate include Quiero Vivir A Tu Lado, Los Ricos No Piden Permiso and Guapas. The latter, Cunning Girls in English, is a 174-episode drama about five women who lose all their savings after their bank closes down. They pull together to get back on track both financially and emotionally. POL-KA, it’s worth noting, is also a partner in Televisa’s Love Divina.

Finally, a word on Brazil’s number two channel Record TV, which is at Natpe with a slate of epic religious dramas including The Promised Land, Moses and the Ten Commandments, The Miracles of Jesus and Joseph from Egypt. An explanation for this emphasis is that Record TV is owned by colourful Brazilian billionaire businessman Edir Macedo, who is also founder and leader of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.

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Natpe’s Latin flavour

Loaded is coming to
Televisa is adapting Keshet’s Loaded

In 2011, US programme market Natpe moved from Las Vegas to Miami to be closer to the Latin American TV community. So it’s fitting that Natpe 2016 (held between January 19 and 21 last week) provided a platform for so many Latin American scripted TV announcements.

Pick of the bunch was the news that Brazilian media giant Globo is moving into Spanish-language production with a thriller called Supermax. Although Globo has previously coproduced Spanish-language shows with the likes of Azteca in Mexico and Telemundo in the US, Supermax marks the first time it has fully funded a drama in Spanish.

The 10-part series, being produced in-house with Argentinian filmmaker Daniel Burman as showrunner, follows eight characters who travel to a remote prison to participate in a reality show. Although production doesn’t start until April, it has already been picked up by Azteca for broadcast in Mexico.

Commenting, Globo executive director of international business Raphael Corrêa Netto said: “We’ve taken a strategic look at the market and worked out how to leverage our creative capabilities. We wanted to develop and produce (this show) based on our thinking for the global market – from script development to production and design.”

In other Latino news, Mexican media conglomerate Televisa has revealed that it is to adapt four Keshet International Israeli dramas from the original Hebrew into Spanish. One of them is a title we discussed last week, Loaded, which is also being remade by Channel 4 in the UK. The other three are yet to be selected but will be produced over the course of the next three years.

Blue Demon
Blue Demon promises an ‘intimate look’ at a Mexican wrestling legend

Televisa is also involved in a coproduction with Sony Pictures Television (SPT) that will focus on the life of Alejandro Muñoz Moreno, a Mexican wrestler better known as the Blue Demon. The 65×60’drama, simply called Blue Demon, will air across Latin America on Televisa platforms and before being distributed worldwide jointly by SPT and Televisa.

The show is the latest title to come out of a coproduction alliance formed by the two partners in 2014. Angelica Guerra, senior VP and MD of production, Latin America and US Hispanic for SPT, said: “There is a growing demand in the region for stories about real people and events, a trend that started in Colombia and has made its way to Mexico. Blue Demon will offer audiences an intimate look at one of (freestyle wrestling’s) greatest legends, exploring a complex and turbulent world that few knew about.”

Also coming out of Miami was news that producer Ben Silverman is teaming up with Eric Newman, the showrunner behind Netflix hit Narcos, on a series about Juan Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez, the Colombian singing sensation better known as Juanes. The show, whose English title is Chasing the Sun, will follow Juanes’s early life in Colombia through to his arrival as an aspiring musician in Miami.

Jaunes, aka Juan Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez
Jaunes, aka Juan Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez

The goal is to produce an edgy series, with the press announcement saying it will “stylistically be in the vein of an Entourage-meets-Narcos bilingual drama.” No network is attached as yet, but Silverman has a good track record for bringing Latin American ideas to the world with series such as Jane the Virgin and Ugly Betty. Note that it is being set us as a bilingual series.

In other greenlight news this week, USA Network has given a straight-to-series, 10-episode order to Eyewitness, a drama based on Norwegian crime thriller Øyevitne. The US version will be created by Adi Hasak, whose credits include Shades of Blue. He will work alongside Norwegian series creator Jarl Emsell Larsen.

Øyevitne, which aired on NRK, was one of the most talked-about Scandinavian shows of 2015. It focuses on two gay teenage boys who secretly meet up in a forest. During one such liaison, they witness a shooting and barely escape with their lives. Desperate to keep their relationship a secret and in fear of being found by the perpetrator, they remain silent.

eyewitness-3808
Eyewitness (Øyevitne) originally aired on NRK

Commenting on the decision to pick up the show, Alex Sepiol, senior VP of original scripted programming at USA, said: “Eyewitness takes a horrific crime and, in compelling fashion, uses it to examine a whole network of unique character relationships. We were immediately drawn to the source material, and Adi has found a very smart way to adapt it into a universal and engaging story.”

The dark tone of the show fits a broader agenda at USA, which is reinventing itself as a more exciting destination for young viewers. Alongside the Eyewitness project, it has Golden Globe-winning hacker drama Mr Robot and Carlton Cuse-produced series Colony. Earlier this week, it also announced another new drama called Falling Water. This series centres on three strangers who realise they are dreaming separate parts of the same dream that has major implications for problems in each of their lives.

“Today’s world demands shows that challenge and reward the audience in spectacular ways,” said Jeff Wachtel, president and chief content officer at USA Network’s parent company NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment. “Falling Water is the type of show that can move the needle of popular culture with its thrilling exploration of the dark side of the mind.”

Altered_Carbon_cover_1_(Amazon)
Netflix has commissioned a series based on the novel Altered Carbon

Meanwhile, Netflix, now up to 75 million subscribers worldwide, continues to commission new shows. Its latest addition is a 10-part sci-fi series based on Richard K Morgan’s book Altered Carbon. Set in the 25th century, Morgan’s novel imagines a world where the human mind has been digitised and the soul is transferrable from one body to the next. The series is being produced by Skydance Television and written by Laeta Kalogridis. Kalogridis’s previous credits include the screenplays for the movies Shutter Island and Terminator Genisys.

Elsewhere, there have been rumours circulating in the last few days that Fox in the US would love to commission a follow-up to its six-part X-Files reboot, which debuted last night in the US. However, the big obstacle to that appears to be scheduling the talent.

In an interview with Variety, male lead David Duchovny said: “Gillian (Anderson, co-star) and I have talked about (doing more episodes), and then we just stop because we get to 2023 and we still haven’t found a date we can do it. It’s like, ‘Let’s just wait and see what happens after this,’ and then we can start to talk seriously about whether we can make it work again.” Possibly, if the ratings are good enough to justify it, there might be room to squeeze in another short run of six or eight episodes.

Will we get more X-Files?
Will we get more X-Files?

Finally, the big story on the drama acquisition front is that pay TV platform Sky has done a deal with CBS that means its Sky Atlantic channel will become the exclusive home to Showtime’s original drama series across the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy. The agreement covers all new and future series including Billions, which premiered strongly in the US this week, and the forthcoming revival of cult drama Twin Peaks.

Commenting on the deal, Sky content MD Gary Davey said: “This is one of the most important content deals Sky has ever agreed, cementing Sky’s position as the market leader in Europe for world-class drama. The agreement means our customers can enjoy an incredible slate of upcoming new dramas and can also explore hundreds of hours of amazing series such as Dexter, Californication, The Affair and House of Lies on demand from the back catalogue.”

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Televisa goes English

Dougray Scott in Taken 3
Dougray Scott (pictured in Taken 3) stars in Duality

Mexican media giant Televisa is the largest producer and distributor of Spanish-language content in the world. But now it wants to play in the English-language market.

Having recently announced plans for an English-language version of Spanish drama Gran Hotel (to be produced by its US-based Televisa USA division), it has now revealed plans to “greenlight production of multiple English-language series to fuel its own demands as well as those from the global on-demand and TV markets.”

The first title to be announced is Duality, starring Dougray Scott (Taken 3). Working with Vancouver-based Odyssey Media, Televisa says the show will be one of the first to utilise the 1991 Mexican-Canadian tax treaty for scripted series. Chris Philip, head of production and distribution for Televisa USA; Jorge Aragon; Eduardo Clemesha, Televisa´s general director of new content and formats; Odyssey film and television producer Kirk Shaw (The Hurt Locker); and Scott will executive produce.

According to Televisa, Duality will centre on an elite, top-secret team of State Department, CIA and Mexican intelligence agents within Mexico who wage war against the most dangerous villains operating in Latin America. The series, based on an original story from writer-producer Barry Schkolnick (The Good Wife, Law & Order), “depicts characters on dangerous missions while battling their own personal demons.”

The Lethal Weapon film franchise starred Danny Glover (left) and Mel Gibson
The Lethal Weapon film franchise starred Danny Glover (left) and Mel Gibson

Clemesha added: “Televisa brings to this venture access to award-winning producers and directors; the economies of scale of shooting in Mexico with Televisa’s facilities and crew; as well as the latitude to adapt formats from both Televisa’s massive library and third-party rights holders.”

Elsewhere, UK pay TV channel Sky1 has ordered an Indiana Jones-style drama from Red Planet Pictures. Titled Hooten & The Lady, the 8×60’ series follows an adventurer called Hooten who teams up with the British Museum’s Lady Alexandra to track down lost treasures, including an Amazonian city, the Buddha’s missing scroll and the tomb of Alexander the Great. Filming will take place in Rome and Cape Town. Writers include Red Planet founder Tony Jordan, James Payne, Sarah Phelps, Jeff Povey and Richard Zajdlic. The show will be distributed internationally by Sky Vision.

This week has also seen the emergence of another movie-to-TV project, with Fox ordering a pilot from Warner Brothers based on the 1980s/90s hit movie franchise Lethal Weapon. If Warner Bros decides to stick close to the movie storylines then it will have a lot of content to work with. Aside from the original film, there were three sequels – and a fifth that never got out of development.

In other reboot news this week, reports suggest US network CBS is planning to revive 1980s TV series MacGyver.

Dicte is produced by Miso Films for TV2 Denmark
Dicte is produced by Miso Films for TV2 Denmark

In addition to new projects, there have been a couple of interesting drama renewals this week. In Denmark, crime series Dicte is about to go into production on a third season. Produced by Miso Films for TV2 Denmark and written by Dorte W Høgh and Ida Maria Rydén, Dicte is a crime series that centres on journalist Dicte Svendsen, plus her family, friends, colleagues and sources within the police.

This season will have an international dimension, with part of the series taking place in Lebanon and Syria. “We are so happy to be able to present a new season of Dicte,” said Katrine Vogelsang, head of fiction for TV2. “Danish viewers love the character of Dicte and the series has performed fantastically in TV2’s primetime slot on Monday nights. In Denmark, we measure viewers’ evaluations of episodes and Dicte is at the top of all Danish TV series.”

Meanwhile, CBS has greenlit a second season of Zoo for summer 2016. Based on the bestseller by James Patterson, Zoo is a thriller about a wave of violent animal attacks against humans across the planet. “Zoo’s thrilling stories clicked with audiences each week during a very competitive summer,” said CBS Entertainment president Glenn Geller. “We’re excited for viewers to see where our writers and cast take them as the adventure continues to unfold during season two in the fight of man versus beast.”

Zoo is an interesting show, because it is part of a deal involving CBS and SVoD service Amazon Prime Instant Video. In a nutshell, Amazon helps fund the series and gets the right to stream the show in the US just a few days after it airs on CBS. The deal works for CBS because audiences are lower in the summer, so it is able to get a decent-quality drama at a relatively low price.

Zoo's second season will air next year
Zoo’s second season will air next year

CBS and Amazon first created this model for Under the Dome, which has just ended after three seasons, and also used it for Extant. Now, the two parties have extended the arrangement to cover the next three summer periods. This will give Amazon access to new seasons of Zoo and a new series called BrainDead. “Prime members have loved having access to series like Under the Dome and Extant just four days after broadcast, and we’re excited to continue to offer in-season availability of more great CBS summer series over the next three years,” said Brad Beale, Amazon’s VP of digital video content acquisition.

Another interesting commissioning story this week came from the UK, with the BBC announcing that it has ordered another spin-off from sci-fi drama Doctor Who. Written by Patrick Ness and destined for BBC3, Class (8×45’) will be aimed at young adults and centres on a London school where sinister enemies are “breaking through the walls of time and space.”

It is exec produced by Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffatt, Ness and Brian Minchin. Moffat said: “No one has documented the dark, exhilarating world of the teenager like Patrick Ness, and now we’re bringing his brilliant storytelling to Doctor Who.”

With autumn programme market Micom starting today, there has also been a lot of activity in terms of drama acquisition deals. The biggest story of the last week is that US cable channel Esquire has acquired the rights to ITV Studio’s new epic drama Beowulf. This follows a previously announced deal that saw Esquire acquire the Tandem production Spotless.

Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands
Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands

Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands is a 13×60’ series that is being distributed internationally by ITV Studios Global Entertainment. It is set in the mythical Shieldlands, a dangerous place populated by humans and fantasy creatures. The first episode sees Beowulf return to Herot after many years as a mercenary warrior to pay his respects to the recently deceased Thane Hrothgar. But when Herot is attacked by the monster Grendl, Beowulf has no choice but to hunt the beast down.

Matt Hanna, EVP of development and production for Esquire, said: “Beowulf exemplifies our commitment to delivering well-produced, vivid and engaging programming. We’re thrilled to bring an impressive assembly of artists and visionaries to our line-up when the series unveils next year.”

Other acquisition deals this week include a raft of sales for German drama Naked Among Wolves, which has sold to Mediaset in Italy and KBS in South Korea others. There’s also been activity around Dori Media’s Ciega a Cita, a romantic comedy format that has been sold to AB Groupe in France.

Graceland has been cancelled
Graceland has been cancelled

On the service front, Channel 4’s new foreign drama on-demand service Walter Presents (launching in partnership with GSN) has acquired a number of Nordic dramas from Fremantle Media International, including Dicte and Acquitted. More deals are on the cards from Walter Presents at Mipcom this week. Meanwhile, Netflix has announced that it will launch in Spain on October 20, Portugal on October 21 and Italy on October 22.

Finally, there was news of a cancellation this week, with USA Network calling a halt to Graceland after three seasons. The Fox Television Studios-produced series told the story of a rookie agent who had to investigate his mentor. Reports suggest the show was iced because of low ratings.

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Comic cuts: A round-up of the hottest trailers unveiled in San Diego

As the dust settles on another Comic-Con, Michael Pickard rounds up all the news and casts his eye over the hottest trailers that were unveiled to thousands of fans in San Diego.

Comic-Con-fans. Credit-@DCComics
Costumed Comic-Con fans get into the spirit of the event

And so Comic-Con ends for another year. As more than 130,000 people make their way home from the San Diego Convention Centre, the latest round of this annual four-day event has only served to establish it further as the new must-go place for television series, and their producers, directors, writers and cast members, to build up the noise surrounding their launch or return to our screens.

Alongside announcements about series renewals and surprise star appearances, it’s always intriguing to see where television drama – and genre fare in particular – is heading over the coming year.

Panels were hosted by shows including Limitless, Orphan Black, iZombie, Scorpion and Sherlock. Game of Thrones, The 100 and Marvel’s broadcast series – Agent Carter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – also drew fans to hear gossip from the set and more about what fate might lie in store for their favourite characters.

Elsewhere, MTV announced Teen Wolf had been renewed for a sixth season, while cable network WGN America ordered a third run of its spellbinding period drama Salem.

Comic book drama Arrow released an image of the Green Arrow’s costume ahead of season four launching on The CW this fall, while the casts of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and The Flash, both also on The CW, joined in the fun.

Universal Cable Productions announced it is teaming with Warren Ellis and Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead) to adapt 1970s Mexican network Televisa’s format El Pantera, as well as adapting UK film The Machine with writer Caradog James for Syfy. It has also optioned IDW Publishing comic Kill Shakespeare.

The producer of NBC reboot Heroes Reborn, Imperative Entertainment, said it had optioned rights to adapt Hugh Howey novel Sand, which tells of a family of sand divers who use wetsuit-type technology to dive beneath the desert that covers a lawless dystopian world to retrieve valuable relics that help them survive.

The cast of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow gather at the San Diego event
The cast of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow gather at the San Diego event

Minority Report producer Darryl Frank also revealed that Steven Spielberg had been working with executives on the Fox reboot of the celebrated director’s 2002 feature film.

At Syfy, the network revealed new details about its six-hour adaptation of Arthur C Clark’s novel Childhood’s End, and former Lost star Josh Holloway was reunited with the show’s executive producer Carlton Cuse as they discussed their latest collaboration: USA Network’s forthcoming Colony.

Showrunner Bryan Fuller also gave hope to fans of Hannibal that the now-cancelled NBC drama could be resurrected as a feature film, though there were celebrations at the Grimm panel, where the show’s stars and executive producers discussed plans for the NBC series’ landmark 100th episode.

But for all the talk at Comic-Con, its the exclusive clips and trailers that got fans off their seats and on their feet inside the convention centre.

Here DQ showcases trailers for some of the most anticipated shows heading to television over the next year:

See you next year in San Diego!

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Beyond the telenovela

As viewer expectations change thanks to gritty US dramas like Breaking Bad, Hispanic networks and studios are injecting more action into their programming. But does this spell the end for the traditional telenovela?

For now, Spanish- and Portuguese-language television around the world is still dominated by those five-days-a-week dramas like Televisa’s hit Mi Corazón es Tuyo, which on Univision in the US was averaging 3.3 million viewers earlier this year.

Mexico's Televisa partnered with Sony Pictures Television on Señorita Pólvora
Mexico’s Televisa partnered with Sony Pictures Television on Señorita Pólvora

These are Cinderella stories where a down-on-her-luck young woman falls hopelessly in love with an out-of-reach rich guy who, 120 or more episodes later, falls in love with her. For decades that formula has fuelled the worldwide explosion of Hispanic TV. In the US alone, Spanish-language TV drummed up US$5.9bn in ad revenue in the first three quarters of 2014 (up 28% year-on-year), according to ad-tracking firm Kantar Media. Yet Hispanic studios and TV networks around the globe are shaking up that lucrative formula, and with good reason.

Like many other broadcast sectors, they increasingly face their audience migrating to watch fast-paced dramas like The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad on digital platforms, luring millions of Hispanic viewers away from watching telenovelas.

The Hispanic TV industry is reaching out to these viewers, who are often young and watching content in Spanish and other languages on digital platforms in short, binged bursts – none of which lends itself to traditional telenovelas that can run up to 300 episodes over many weeks.

“We want to offer the entire Hispanic audience different stories,” says Andres Mendoza, VP of Univision’s UniMás Network, which in 2010 aired the first season of Fox Telecolombia’s action drama El Capo and last year showed Spanish-language Breaking Bad remake Metástasis. “On Univision, we have traditional telenovelas; here, we are capturing a more male audience. On average, these series have a 57% male audience, whereas traditional telenovela audiences are 60% female. And, on average, viewers of our 21.00 and 22.00 series are 35 years old.”

These newer shows are action-oriented, often violent programmes that air Monday to Friday for a few weeks, coming back for another season if they’re successful. Some execs call these modern dramas teleseries, super series, alternative series or just series.

Compared with telenovelas, the series are fast-paced and comprise roughly half as many episodes. The storylines veer pretty far from Cinderella territory and straight into drug cartels where crime, murder and women throwing punches are par for the course.

In 2009, Fox Telecolombia’s El Capo, on Colombia’s RCN, jumpstarted this trend with a story about a drug cartel, starring Marlon Moreno as fictional drug lord Pedro Pablo León Jaramillo. Its third season debuted on RCN last summer at number one in the country with a 10.8 rating, according to Estereofonica.

El Capo has recently been airing in the US on MundoFox, the joint-venture channel between Fox International Channels and RCN. In fact, in 2012, the second season of El Capo aired on MundoFox before it aired on RCN. MundoFox also aired its third season.

Luis Silberwasser
Luis Silberwasser

“We have done this since we launched in 2012,” Oswald Mendez, executive VP and chief marketing officer at MundoFox, says of this approach. “We did it very purposefully with El Capo, which is the first Spanish-language series in the US market to go into a second and a third season. We did that to differentiate ourselves from our competitors.”

MundoFox has set aside its 21.00 timeslot for what it calls series. These have included La Mariposa, about a female money launderer; and El Mariachi, inspired by the 1992 Robert Rodriguez movie.

“Right now, we have a whodunit, ¿Quién Mató a Patricia Soler?, about a woman who is falsely accused of murder and goes to jail,” says Mendez. “She gets out and fights to regain her life and family, but she also wants to unmask the real killer.”

March, meanwhile, saw the premiere of El Capitan Camacho, the true story of a man who fought for immigration rights in the United States. “He was a pioneer in radio and opened one of the biggest animal sanctuaries in Mexico,” adds Mendez.

Other networks are also at the forefront of this trend. In the US, UniMás has been airing Televisa and Caracol coproduction Tiro de Gracia at 21.00 since January. The show stars Robinson Diaz in dual roles as a drug lord and a theatre actor. At 22.00, UniMás shows the Televisa and RTI copro La Esquina del Diablo, about a policewoman tracking down a drug kingpin.

“Previously we only had one ‘alternative’ series at a time, at 22.00,” says Mendoza, “but with the success we’ve seen, last year we added a second timeslot at 21.00.”

Mexico-based Televisa has also been working on new kinds of drama, partnering with Sony Pictures Television (SPT) on shows like Señorita Pólvora and the upcoming El Dandy, based on mobster movie Donnie Brasco. Last year the companies signed a five-year, 12-series deal to coproduce teleseries.

Mauricio Bailon
Mauricio Bailon

“The telenovela format – inspirational stories – is not that appealing in developed countries,” says Mauricio Bailón, general director of new business at Televisa. “The teleseries drive is an effort to capture a different, more male audience as well as young people who are not always watching on a TV. We are seizing that opportunity with different channels. In Mexico, we have Channel 5 to capture this different audience.

“Viewers are looking for real-life themes, like action, drug trafficking and fights. Less filming takes place indoors, with exterior shots making up about 70% of the action. The shows are edgy, with unpredictable stories.”

Sony also works on teleseries with Colombia’s RCN. “In Colombia, we are producing Lady, La Vendedora de Rosas, the true story of a girl who finds fame when she’s cast in a movie that goes to Cannes,” says Alexander Marin, senior VP of distribution for Latin America and the US Hispanic market at SPT. “When she comes back, she is catapulted into the stratosphere of fame but she still works as a flower girl. Ultimately, she ends up in prison. In real life, she was released while the show was in production.”

Another Sony teleseries, Anónima, is “about a woman named Victoria who has just come back into the world after spending 10 years in prison,” says Marin. “An old friend asks Victoria to watch her son for a few days but, in a tragic turn of events, she inherits him and is forced to return to a life of crime to ensure they both survive.”

In the US earlier this year, Telemundo aired Duenos del Paraiso (pictured top), with Kate del Castillo starring as the widow of a Mexican drug lord. In 2011, del Castillo starred in Telemundo’s most successful super series, La Reina del Sur. That show averaged just over three million viewers each episode.

“We are not the largest Spanish-language network,” says Telemundo Network president Luis Silberwasser. “We are the competitor, so we have to offer viewers an alternative; something that can bring Hispanic viewers from the number-one network to us.

“The Hispanic viewer is now more established in the US. We have seen that they want more action than the melodrama of telenovelas. We created something with the romantic elements and family drama of telenovelas in a setting that is more action-oriented, with storylines that are grittier, edgier and borrowed from the headlines.”

El Señor de los Cielos is among several shows set in the world of drug cartels
El Señor de los Cielos is among several shows set in the world of drug cartels

In January, Telemundo’s Señora Acero wrapped with 2.7 million people tuning in for its finale. Prior to that, the last episode of El Señor de los Cielos’s second run attracted almost 3.2 million people.

“We are going to follow up El Señor de los Cielos with season three,” says Silberwasser. “That’s part of the appeal of super series. Like with American series, a successful show will be brought back for another season.”

In 2014, Cisneros’s Venevision Productions formed an alliance with Colombian producer Cristina Palacio of Shine Latino to create Teleseries. Shows spawned from the deal include DeMente Criminal, about a murderous psychiatrist. It aired on networks such as Venevision in Venezuela and UniMás in the US.

Azteca in Mexico, meanwhile, is also experimenting with new drama formats. “Right now in India, Lo Que Callamos las Mujeres is a single-series drama,” says Marcel Vinay Hill, VP of international sales at the Grupo Salinas-owned channel. “Every episode is self-contained.”

He continues: “In Mexico, we’re remaking the Spanish show Gran Reserva. We’re also in the process of doing another action miniseries like La Teniente, with a large cast and a big production, which was very successful in Mexico and around the world.”

And at Brazil’s Globo, which produces telenovelas and teleseries in addition to comedies and reality shows, the teleseries style is affecting the look, feel and pacing of more traditional telenovelas.

“On La Fiesta (The Party), for example, a body is found floating in a pool during a party,” says a Globo spokesperson. “The entire story occurs over a 24-hour period. It’s now available to the international market as a miniseries with 20 episodes. Another example is Doomed, which stars Cauã Reymond, who played Jorginho in Brazil Avenue. About 70% of the miniseries’ scenes were shot on location in northeast Brazil over a period of three months.”

La Fiesta centres on the discovery of a body in a pool during a party
La Fiesta centres on the discovery of a body in a pool during a party

Still, despite the relative newness of teleseries and their impact on telenovelas, the genre is already branching out into subgenres. Put simply, the next-generation teleseries has less drugs and violence than the current incarnation, while adding in more love stories.

“The genre started out very much in the drug cartel world with El Capo and El Señor de los Cielos,” says MundoFox’s Mendez. “It was a wave of drug lords. Now, the series is evolving to include a love component and suspense, and not necessarily so much violence.”

MundoFox show ¿Quién mató a Patricia Soler? is more mystery than gritty drama, Mendez adds. “There are certain advertisers who shy away from the cartel storylines – so the feeling at the network is that we’ll continue with series, but with more family-friendly storylines.”

In Colombia, where much of this trend began, viewers are already looking to move on to something lighter. “The US Hispanic market is happy with it, but in Colombia people are starting to get tired of it. It’s a challenge for us to find projects that are of interest to the three parties,” Televisa’s Bailón says of Mexico, Colombia and the US.

The origins of the series in large part reflect Hispanic viewers’ changing tastes. Those changes are coinciding with the increasing availability of hit dramas like The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad and Netflix’s House of Cards.

Around Latin America, viewers are being exposed to more TV programming as penetration of cable TV, satellite TV and IPTV increases. Consultancy firm PwC forecasts that this penetration will grow at an annual compound growth rate of 6.3%, increasing from 55 million homes in 2013 to 74.6 million in 2018.

“We are all watching shows like The Walking Dead and CSI,” says Azteca’s Hill. “They are very successful around the world. Now, we are working to put more emphasis on the quality of our productions. Everything is in HD, and our focus is on creating content for multiple platforms.”

Much of the strategy behind teleseries is to reach younger Hispanics with high-quality productions that retain a focus on Hispanic culture.

Colombian Breaking Bad remake Metástasis
Colombian Breaking Bad remake Metástasis

“The Hispanic millennial is basically like every other millennial,” says Dick Haynes, senior VP of research firm Frank N. Magid Associates. “They’re not saying they don’t like the telenovela. They do – but they want to change it to fit their tastes.”

Teleseries are also designed to reflect how young Hispanics watch content – which, like most viewers, includes binge-watching via streaming services such as Netflix.

In fact, US Hispanics between 18 and 34 years old watched 35 minutes of digital video every day in the second quarter of 2014, equal to all adults in that age range, according to Nielsen. That’s up from 21 minutes two years earlier.

Last year, New York-based Horowitz Research’s Focus Latino study found that 55% of US Hispanics watch at least some TV on a streaming service each week. Of those, 66% watch subscription VoD.

“What we’re seeing from our qualitative and quantitative data is that Hispanics who are multiplatform viewers are heavier multiplatform users than their general market counterparts,” says Adriana Waterston, senior VP of marketing and business development at Horowitz. “There’s a new, huge influx of content they have access to.”

Teleseries with fewer, faster-paced episodes lend themselves to binge-watching more than telenovelas. In November, Univision addressed this issue with Novelas Xpress, which are telenovelas it cuts down to about 15 hours each and streams online.

In the meantime, the business model for teleseries falls somewhere between the model used for traditional telenovelas and those used for US-style scripted series.

Teleseries typically cost about 35% more per episode to produce than telenovelas, estimates Televisa’s Bailón – and they also comprise about half as many episodes, so there are fewer opportunities to generate ad revenue.

TV studios are finding ways to offset those production costs while drumming up additional revenue. One way to lower costs is to produce multiple seasons of a show.

Each season brings down overhead expenses, as actors, sets and many of the other costs associated with ramping up production are already in place.

“We have been able to mitigate the extra investment,” says Telemundo’s Silberwasser. “We are not producing 120 episodes; it’s about 60 per season. But we can bring back these series for season two and season three. El Señor de los Cielos hasn’t been done in one season, but we have still produced 180 episodes.”

Coproductions are also being used to spread costs among multiple companies. Mexico-based Argos Television, for instance, has been producing some of Telemundo’s super series like El Señor de los Cielos and Señora Acero, while Televisa and RCN have each been working with Sony. “We have partners to help minimise the finances,” says Bailón.

Some teleseries are sold to streaming services or monetised with advertising on homegrown SVoD platforms. “We have our own catch-up video platform, MundoFox Videos,” says Mendez. “We also partner with Hulu and other streaming services.”

Univision’s UniMás, like other networks, airs original content that is spun off its teleseries on digital platforms. “For La Viuda Negra, we had a highly successful preview trailer,” says Mendoza. “Now, we are planning to have exclusive digital content for every show, whether it’s parallel storylines or alternative endings.”

Telemundo airs its super series on its own streaming sites with considerable success. Señora Acero, for example, was seen last season on Telemundo’s digital platforms by 1.2 million people – who in total streamed the show 8.3 million times, according to the broadcaster.

International sales for some teleseries have also been strong, helping to offset production costs with added revenue. “Telenovelas, in the long term, have the highest financial benefit,” says Dago Garcia, VP of production and content at Caracol TV. “But series bring viewers to the channel, and become an anchor for it.

“We are selling these series to a lot of countries in the international marketplace.”

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