Content Americas: 10 Takes From a Robust Buyer Presence to a Streamer Commission Slowdown and a Vibrant New Fiction Scene

Last October, the National Association of Television Program Executives – NATPE – filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, cancelling its January 2023 conference in the Bahamas.

Three conventions contend for NATPE’s crown: Content Americas, organized by C21 International; Discop Miami, announced in October by Basic Lead’s Patrick Zuchowicki, behind Discop Budapest; and January’s NATPE Global itself, bought this month by RealScreen owner Brunico Communications.

For January 2023 at least, only one event has made it across the starting line: Content Americas, which runs Jan. 24-26 at the Hilton Downtown Miami. Following, 10 takes on this year’s inaugural event. 

Content Americas: A Pre-Market Take

Founded in 1963, NATPE was born and boomed as a U.S. TV syndication emporium. Moving to Miami in 2011, many of its overseas delegates instantly came from Latin America. Their presence came to dominate the event. Now the tail isn’t just wagging the dog. It’s nearly the whole beast. Propagate Content’s Ben Silverman and Fernando Szew, the recently named CEO of Fox Entertainment Global deliver keynote interviews. They will talk, however, about how Spanish-language production fits into their game-plans. Two thirds of keynotes, one-in-ones, panels and sessions are in Spanish. In bread-and-butter dealing, Content Americas will be driven by its sales market to Latin America.

Buyers after Back in Force

NATPE 2021 took place online. Its 2022 it didn’t happen at all. “There was an initial concern, back in December, to know if people would show,” EO Media’s Eze Olzanski, tells Variety. Those fears appear to have proved groundless. Despite three years away, buyers – free-to-air, pay-TV and streamers near all have execs at Content Americas. It helps that the Latin American arms of many OTT players – Warner Bros. Discovery, Disney+, Amazon, Vix+, Apple – have bases or branches in Miami, Olzanski noted.The only no-show among acquisition execs is Netflix, though two of their key Latino creatives – “Who Killed Sara?’” “Chascas” Valenzuela and “Pálpito’s” Leonardo Padrón –  talk on a panel.

Latin America: The Big Build

“Nothing ever happens in Latin America,” the then international editor of a major Hollywood publication once said. They were wrong then. They are even more wrong now. In its large favor, Content Americas catches Latin America as it is booming. Netflix, for instance,  produced one original series in Latin America in 2015: Mexico’s “Club of Crows,” its first fully non-English language series ever. In 2022, it produced 72, according to Omdia’s Maria Rua Aguete, one of the speakers at Content Americas opening panel on Tuesday.  

Latin America’s Vibrant New Fiction Scene

Rap lifted off as a chartbuster when Snoop Dog melded Gangsta Rap and Dr. Drey funk, creating “Who Am I” (“What’s My Name)?” the first rap album which entered the charts at No. 1. Mixed, punk and hard rock begot grunge. Delegates will flood into Miami as key creators are also forging a new and exciting scripted scene, fusing U.S. mainstays – propulsive pace, a sense of genre – and Latin American sensibilities. For more details, catch Mauricio Leiva Cock (“Murrieta”), Valenzuela, Padrón and Silvina Aguirre (“Adolfo”) at a Wednesday panel. The shows, moreover, are not just exciting but successful. “Who Killed Sara?” was described by Netflix when it launched as its most successful non-English series in the U.S. from any part of the world.

Market Challenges (1)

Yet market challenge and concerns remain and may set become of the Content Americas conversation. Some are logistical but may prove unfounded. C21 has put together Content Americas in a question of months. That’s a tall order, though the publishing group has large experience organising Content London, a must-attend event for much of Europe’s TV industry and beyond. “C21 is a well respected [event organiser] entity, a very good brand,” says Fremantle’s Manuel Martí. Yet NATPE itself took several years to settle into Miami. Remember those queues for first Monday elevators at Fontainebleu Tresor Tower back in in 2011? So far, judged on the eve of the event, there are no major logistical problems are evident….

Market Challenges (2): The Slowdown

Others concerns are macro. H2 2022 saw new streaming and broadcast/cable commissions drop by 46% and 52% respectively vs.1H 2022 in Latin America, says Ampere Analysis’ Guy Bisson  The downturn is “partly because of a global slowdown, a result of the world’s economic outlook, and also the fact that Netflix and others are beginning to scale back the growth rates of their production investments as they shift interest towards Asia and other emerging markets,” he added.  

The Upside of Downturn

But the downturn has an upside. “Capital is expensive so companies tend to leverage risk, and streamers are looking for margins, to make more money. So they have to put less money into each show, and they will be more picky in choosing where and when to put the money, ” says Martí. That opens up large co-production opportunities for deeper pocketed Indies, he adds. Co-production, whether with platforms taking local markets but freeing up much of the world, or between established players looking to sell territory-by-territory looks like one name of the game at Content Americas. 

The Big Reset  

The kind of content streamers may be looking for could also be changing. “For some time, streamers were looking for local shows that worked locally to drive up subs counts,” says Olzanski. But now they need more bang for their buck. So perhaps now the key is “stories that are relevant for local but travel internationally, with cast and talent key,” adds Olzanski, who has just taken onboard a slate of Hollywood star-driven titles from Canal Plus Group- owned SPI and is also working on new strong Latam local and international co-pro projects in the same line.

Gamechanging Moves

On Jan. 17, ex-NBC Universal Telemundo honcho Marcos Santana, one of the most iconic of Latino execs, announced Mas Ros Media, a new Barcelona-Miami based venture whose productions target gaming and esports communities and their families. In 2020, Chile’s Screen Capital, launched a $20million venture capital fund, targeting movies and series. On Jan. 23, it announced a second fund, Screen II, targeting entertainment and media tech (gaming, VR, AR and so on). The entertainment business is now riven by a huge demographic divide. Expect Latino companies to react or make further announcements at Content Americas.  

Brazil: The Promised Land

One territory platforms may focus many companies’ attention in the next few years: Brazil. In sub terms, Brazil rates as the Netflix’s second biggest market in the world, with a year end 2022 estimate of 16.4 million subscribers, says Bisson. According to one source, it’s the No. 2 market worldwide for two other streamers as well. “The market is huge and the talent outstanding,” says Marti. Expect multiple companies to make ever bigger moves in Brazil in the next few years. It’s promising already that several companies are appointing Brazil-based executives as regional leaders. 

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