Sheila Aguirre, EVP of Content Distribution and Format Sales at Fremantle for Latin America and US Hispanic, spoke to ttvnews about the company’s series production plans in Latin America and its latest news in content distribution.
With the premiere of La Jauría in 2020 on Amazon Prime Video, Fremantle kicked off its original series production plan in Latin America after several years of preparation. And, as the evidence shows, the Chilean series was just the first step.
Since then, the company has signed a first-look deal with Fábula; has acquired a stake in Camila Jiménez and Silvana Aguirre’s production company, The Immigrant; has announced new productions such as Señorita 89, El Refugio and the second season of La Jauría; and has opened an in-house production arm from its offices in Mexico.
But, as Sheila Aguirre, EVP of Content Distribution and Format Sales at Fremantle for Latin America and the US Hispanic, said to ttvnews, they are “just getting started”.
“Four years ago, when Christian Vesper came on board Fremantle, he saw that there was real potential and opportunity in Latin America. So we met with several producers and we both agreed that Fabula was an amazing partner,” Aguirre said.
“We’ve grown very quickly. It’s really been a matter of timing that I think we’ve been so successful, plus being close to the market and knowing what the needs are”, she added.
Netflix, the Big Promoter
Although so far the projects announced by Fremantle have Amazon, Starz and Pantaya as its screens, Sheila Aguirre does not hesitate to credit Netflix for the explosion of premium production that Latin America is experiencing.
“There’s so much talent in Latin America that for years kind of went undiscovered. There were huge monopolies in Latin America with the free to air channels that had their own school of talent, but you had all these independent producers who kind of turn to film, because there wasn’t much opportunity in TV. And all of a sudden -and I have to give Netflix a lot of credit on this one- companies like Fabula where discovered in TV too”, she explained.
“The other thing that’s important in Latin America is that there are so many stories, really rich stories, so authentic and that weren’t being told. And I think that nowadays we all agree that language isn’t an issue,” she added.
Regarding the company’s next steps, the executive explained that the idea is to “talk to the entire market”, including all the screens, producers and possible co-production partners.
“We are open, we are going to continue to develop, nurture and grow this business and whatever talent there’s there we are going to embrace it, we are going to develop it and we are going o make sure it gets out there. As I said before, I think we’ve just scratched the surface here. This is a long term goal, we are here to stay,” she said.
Political dramas and Narco stories are on their way out
As for the genres they seek or promote, Aguirre was clear that at Fremantle, the story is more important than the genre. Of course, thanks to being so close to the market, they are clear that some specific topics are still in high demand, such as dramas with strong women or biopics, and others, on the other hand, are already in decline.
“What’s in its way out is strongly political themed series. I think it’s time to leave them and came back to them later. Cartel stories also, or immigration stories”, she said.
“Crime on the other hand is one that always tops the list. As long as its authentic, it has to be authentic. True crimes, fiction crimes. For instance, Fabula is very good at basing all of their stories on true facts or inspired by some true story, thought they are fictional. Everybody wants something edgy too and we have that in the pipeline,” she added.
Another genre that’s growing is unscripted, something Fremantle does very well. “There is a need for factual, non-scripted content in Latin America and coming out from Latin America. That’s something that definitely I see that there’s a need and that has a lot of potential, and that we are very much looking into”, she said.
In terms of formats, the executive highlighted the fact that classic titles are returning to the region’s broadcast TV networks.
“We have been really focusing on formats that have proven successful, that have a track record. The channels want to use something that their audience knows, loves and will embrace immediately. We have 13 formats in the region that we’ve sold for 2022”, she said, mentioning a few major shows such as Family Feud, Got Talent, Price is Right, X Factor or My Mom Cooks Better Than Yours.
“There has been a big revival, it’s been fantastic. Last year was a stellar year, formats and tapes. And this year is too. We are still riding that wave, it’s fantastic that people have opened their eyes and seen Latin America is a fantastic market,” she concluded.