It's clear entertainment formats are very successful in Latin America. Nowadays, almost all countries have at least one channel broadcasting local adaptations of different game-shows or talent-shows. Still, there are others which seem reluctant to join the trend. In an interview with ttv, Harris Whitbeck -CEO at Zodiak Latino- and Juan Maldonado -COO- shared their outlook on the Latin market and explained the pros and cons of entertainment formats for Latin American networks.
Entertainment formats' ratings in countries such as Argentina and Mexico are proof that audiences are engaged by this type of shows. According to Whitbeck, Latin American viewers demand real stories such as those in these formats: "People are looking for good stories and want those stories to be told properly," he said.
Viewers want several elements to be present in these programs: drama, human interaction and competition; and above all, they appreciate the fact that any John Doe can become famous and tell his story in front of a TV camera. "We all have a story to tell and it can be done in private or in front of others; and people will always be entertained by those stories they can relate to," he said.
FORMATS VS. TELENOVELAS
Even though entertainment formats are easy to produce, and have minimum risks because they've already been tested elsewhere; Maldonado believes they have a great enemy in Latin America: the beloved telenovela. Even if adaptations are successful in countries such as Chile and Brazil; there are other places "100% attached to telenovelas" like Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador where networks seem reluctant to add these shows in their lineups.
"As far as Latin America goes, the telenovela is still the main and most successful format. It's the one viewers prefer," he said. For instance, in Colombia, Yo me llamo and Colombia's Got Talent compete in the same timeslot; but the rest of the network's primetime is filled with telenovelas.
Meanwhile, Venezuela has not yet embraced entertainment formats, and according to Maldonado, it's not only viewers who love telenovelas, but the networks do too. "Networks in Venezuela want telenovelas; because they are successful and can be sold overseas. Formats are something local they can't sell anywhere else," he said. "We want there to be more room for entertainment formats," he added.
WHAT'S IN STORE
One of Zodiak's latest projects is Zodiak Active: a new division based in Milan, which will manage the company's branded content and develop software for new platforms. Maldonado stated they are about to launch a new software to manage social networks, which will allegedly be acquired for Telmex's channels.
In addition, Whitbeck announced Zodiak Latino's projects for 2012, which include producing Mexico's Next Top Model for Sony Entertainment Television: "It's a big and complex production, but we are happy to see how it's coming together: we chose the best team, are organizing the castings and will be working with it all summer, since it's set to premiere in September," he said.
The company will also distribute content in Ecuador: they are currently negotiating a new project in the country, and will soon reveal its name. Zodiak Latino also recently signed a deal with production company El Mall in Mexico to produce two programs for Televisa.
According to Whitbeck, after two years of working in the region, the company's is going through an excellent time as far as creativity goes, boosted by a great international strategy: "We are focused on being the creators of the next big hit," he said.