Special Report on NATPE: Courting Latin America: NATPE may be America’s party, but Latin American buyers are getting a lot of invitations to dance

NATPE has come a long way since it opened 35 years ago with 71 attendees. Last year, close to 17,000 people came to New Orleans from around the world, making NATPE arguably the largest stop on the fast-paced international television market...
January 1, 1998

NATPE has come a long way since it opened 35 years ago with 71 attendees. Last year, close to 17,000 people came to New Orleans from around the world, making NATPE arguably the largest stop on the fast-paced international television market circuit. KidScreen’s special report on NATPE looks at how the once mostly American television market has grown with the expanding television industry to represent a truly global perspective, including, especially in recent years, a greater Latin American presence.

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An increasing number of domestic and international organizations attend NATPE with an eye cast south of the border. The Latin American presence at NATPE has become one of the more intriguing developments at the market over the past several years. The region is considered by many as the hottest emerging television market, and NATPE has become the place for many international buyers to establish contacts with the region.

A confluence of factors has made NATPE the place to court Latin American companies. There is no market of the scope of a NATPE or MIP held in the region. The growth of distribution outlets has created the need for more programming. The geographic proximity of the U.S. makes NATPE a much more attractive and affordable market for smaller Latin broadcasters. And, traditionally, Latin Americans love American programming.

There has always been modest Latin American representation at NATPE, but it wasn’t until 1994, when the market was held in Miami, Florida, where many key Latin broadcasters have their U.S. offices, that regional representatives began to attend in strong numbers. Over the last 10 years, the number of Latin American attendees has risen sharply, according to NATPE registration records. Argentina has gone from 28 in 1987 to 127 in 1997, Brazil rose from 13 to 64, Chile from 12 to 36, Columbia from 25 to 64, Mexico from 18 to 97 and Venezuela from 7 to 55.

‘For us, NATPE is the most important convention in terms of selling to other Latin American countries because it’s where the greatest concentration of Latin buyers are present at any market,’ says Cesar D’az, general manager for Argentina-based broadcaster and distributor Telefe International.

Those sentiments are echoed by Latin American buyers. Carlos Garciadiego, director of program acquisition for broadcaster Televisa in Mexico, says that more than any other market, NATPE is the place where he goes to acquire new product. ‘This is definitely the most important convention for us because it has the most significant representation from key companies from around the world,’ adds Soledad Leiva, film acquisition manager for Venevision, a broadcaster in Venezuela. ‘We never go to MIP. . . because we are more interested in the U.S. programming.’

Michelle Kearney, NATPE’s Latin America director, believes that American programming appealed in the past to Latin American buyers because it was faster paced and more action packed than its European counterpart. She believes that many European companies are now having greater success selling to the region because they are making shows that are more in line with what’s appealing to Latin American viewers.

The kids market is difficult to penetrate because majors such as Warner Bros., Fox and Disney have supplied the animation needs of most Latin American buyers, says D’az. Venevision comes to the market in search of live-action teen shows in the vein of Saved by the Bell. That said, the bulk of buyers’ shopping lists for children’s programming is still heavily weighed toward animation, partly because little original animation is produced in the region.

Another area that is beginning to appeal to Latin American buyers is product that can be localized. ‘We’ve seen the potential that this format has and have set up directions so we can come into any market and develop our series in that market,’ says D’az. Nickelodeon Latin America is a strong believer in localization, but it is currently concentrating its efforts in that area on its on-air promos.

‘Localization is not specifically a programming issue,’ says Steve Grieder, vice president and creative director for Nickelodeon Latin America. ‘We don’t feel we have to buy shows from the region; we’re looking for the best stuff to serve the audience.’ Long-range plans have the company teaming up with local broadcasters to produce regional versions of Nickelodeon programs.

Aside from L.A. Screenings, there is no other market that presents the opportunity to reach the Latin American broadcast community near its home base. That has many distributors coming to NATPE curious about the potential the region represents. Telefe’s D’az advises those companies not familiar to the region to concentrate on the countries that have a production infrastructure, and to seek out a strategic alliance with a major local production entity in that region to ensure having a partner with knowledge of the marketplace and the formats that work in each country.

As distribution outlets continue to develop in Latin America, the region’s presence at NATPE will continue to grow in importance. Unless a new market is started specifically for the region, NATPE may evolve into a pan-American market with a distinct Latin flavor.

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