The Latin American Media Landscape: Games, Mobile, and the Next Generation of Dramatic Serials

Latin America’s main broadcasters, primarily known for their telenovelas, are now focusing on creating high-quality content and sophisticated viewing experiences. Two CMF research reports highlight opportunities for Canadian creators and producers in Latin America’s key markets.

Perhaps nothing speaks more to the global appeal of Latin American culture than the recent crowning of Despacito as the most watched video on YouTube, and the first to reach 3 billion views.

With a population of about 650 million, the region known as Latin America starts in Mexico, extends east to include the Spanish-speaking islands of the Caribbean, and continues all the way to the southernmost tip of South America.

As many Latin American countries are both significant importers and exporters of television programming and games, two CMF research reports—one dealing with Mexico and one focused on key South American markets—have been prepared to examine the various media landscapes in greater detail and to identify potential opportunities for Canadian producers through co-production treaties and industry trade events.

The South American report focuses on Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Colombia, which together represent approximately three quarters of the South American continent’s population and the lion’s share of its economic activity.

Creating New Partnerships

As a NAFTA partner of Canada since the early 1990s, Mexico is the object of a separate report that will be published in November. It provides a closer look at cross-border business, cultural, and employment opportunities available to Mexican and Canadian companies.

One such arrangement that stands out is the one involving Siete Media, a technology and design firm based in Mexico City. It is a leader in interactive experiences for brands, conferences, festivals, and museums around the world.

Siete Media’s founder, Roberto Lopez, was so impressed with Montreal after visiting the city that he decided to open a second office in the city’s emerging tech hub situated in the Mile End district. As a result, over 100 360-degree touch screen tours of tourist and cultural destinations have been developed.

Gaming in Latin America: The Rising Popularity of Mobile

Two Latin American countries lead the region when it comes to gaming: Mexico lays claim to the largest gaming market with a value of close to $1.5 billion, and Brazil comes in at a close second with a market valued at $1.3 billion.

About half of the revenue generated by Mexico’s game market comes from mobile gaming, despite the fact that well over 80% of Mexican mobile users are on prepaid mobile plans with limited data. But, with all things mobile being as addictive as they are, a quarter of Mexican mobile users regularly exceed their plan’s data quotas.

Broadband Internet penetration levels

Both South America and Mexico have lagged for many years in broadband Internet penetration levels. One of the reasons is a weak fixed broadband infrastructure delivered by systems such as cable or fibre optics. The other is a historical lack of competitive pricing due to the unchecked dominance of a single service provider.

Government reforms along with advances in mobile technology, particularly over the past 5 to 10 years, have greatly opened up the Latin American market to tens if not hundreds of millions of consumers who would probably otherwise not have had access to the Internet.

Moving Away from Telenovelas

And what about telenovelas, the melodramatic TV serials with which countries across Latin America have become synonymous? Thanks to the globalizing power of Netflix, classic telenovelas such as Rebelde, La Usurpadora and La Reina del Sur have become part of the binge viewing fare of audiences around the world.

Interestingly, just as global audiences are tuning into these programs, Latin American audiences are reported to be losing interest in them. Marcos Santana of Telemundo International explains it in the following terms: “The Internet has meant a gigantic change in how we communicate [and] consume TV … [and people] are looking for shorter, more impactful, better-quality programs.”

As a result, there is “a growing interest in the co-production of content with other nations,” states the white paper Co-producing with Latin America. To fill this gap, broadcasters such as Argentina’s Telefe and Brazil’s Globo have been developing a new breed of dramatic serials for those in search of more sophisticated viewing experiences.

“[We are] trying to emulate international standards, themes, storylines, concentrations of ideas, and number of episodes,” says Guel Arraes, Chief Creative Officer of Globo.

For more on the current state of the media and entertainment industry in Mexico and South America, read the full reports:

Leora Kornfeld
So far in life, Leora has been a record store clerk, a CBC radio host, a Harvard Business School case writer, a blogger and a crossword puzzle clue. Currently she’s a media and technology consultant, working with clients in the US and Canada.
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