As a tidal wave of content washes over the international market, the search for exclusive deals with the best TV creators out there -a common practice in the US- has grown from a few isolated examples to an increasingly strong trend in Latin America and Spain.
In August of 2017, Netflix made the surprise announcement of an overall deal with Shondaland, the producer owned by Shonda Rhimes, which was valued at US$ 100 million. The news was shocking for the industry, since the streaming platform was signing one of the biggest talents from the ABC network, her home for over 15 years, where she created hits like Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder.
And just like that, the race began for studios and platforms in the US to sign exclusive deals with the best and most talented TV creators. A battle that over the last year has become a true war.
In fact, January of 2020 has been by far the most frantic month in this regard, with three new deals signed by Apple (with Richard Plepler, Lee Eisenberg and Julia Louis-Dreyfus), two for Amazon (Steve McQueen, and Mexicans Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal), two for HBO (Steven Soderbergh, and Robert Downey Jr. and Susan Downey), one for Netflix (Bill Prady), one for NBCUniversal Content Studios (Seth MacFarlane), one for Sony Pictures (Will Gluck) and lastly one for Fox 21 TV Studios (Marta Kauffman).
And while it seems as if the trend couldn’t get any stronger in the US -the biggest names have already been signed-, the lesson was learned fast in Latin America and what began as an isolated deal here and there, has now become a more common practice. Exclusivity deals are now signed by the dozens.
The market has truly opened up for Hispanic TV creators.
Latin American Talent
“We will continue with this strategy of signing talents, because we believe it’s the only way to be able to own our destiny.” With this words, Javier Pons, general director of Globomedia and co-head of The Mediapro Studio, explained the company’s strategy as one of the trend’s pioneers in the Hispanic world.
Among the creators signed by the company are names such as Ran Tellem and Daniel Burman, with key positions, as well as showrunners such as Javier Olivares, Fernando González Molina, Diego San José, Marc Vigil, Iván Escobar and Lorenzo Silva, among others.
This, in addition to The Mediapro Studio’s acquisitions or strategic stakes in production companies such as El Terrat or Wild Sheep Content, owned by former Netflix exec, Erik Barmack.
The search for unique voices is a necessity for the studio (“no in-house talents makes it increasingly difficult to form an interesting team”, said Pons) and also a strength, since having a diverse group of creators makes projects grow immensely.
Another player who has devoted to finding creative talents is Viacom International Studios (VIS), which in fact has several projects in co-production with The Mediapro Studio.
As part of its growth, VIS announced in May of 2019 a first-look deal with Argentine director, writer and producer, Juan José Campanella and his producer 100 Bares. The director, who won an Oscar for The Secret in their Eyes, will develop and produce premium content for two years under VIS.
Then in November, the studio announced a similar deal with Spanish actor, screenwriter, director and producer, Santiago Segura, through his producer Bowfinger International Pictures.
And during the recent Natpe Miami, VIS revealed two new first-look deals: one with Argentine filmmaker Ariel Winograd and one with Hispanic film and TV producer, Frida Torresblanco and her production house, Braven Films LLC. They will both create and produce premium content for global audiences.
“Through this type of alliances, VIS seeks to develop content with universal appeal, which allows us to increase our portfolio even further and consolidate our position in the international market”, said Federico Cuervo, SVP and general director of VIS.
Signing talent is also a priority for Endemol Shine Boomdog, another one of the standout producers behind the boom of Hispanic series.
Film and music video director, Jessy Terrero, was the first to join Endemol Shine North America’s Hispanic division back in 2018; an alliance that led to the creation of the Netflix original series, Nicky Jam: el ganador.
Since September of 2019, the company led by Alejandro Rincón announced general deals with actress Kate del Castillo (The Queen of the South) to develop, produce and star in original fiction and non-fiction shows; with Marie Leguizamo (The Voice Kids) for non-fiction projects; with Mexican producer Gastón Pavlovich (The Irishman) and his company Fábrica de Cine for fiction series aimed at English and Spanish-speaking audiences; and with comedy experts Fran Hevia, Alex Fernández, Michelle Rodríguez, Ricardo O’Farrill and El Diablito, to develop original fiction and non-fiction titles.
“What we are doing is answering to a demand for product, reinforcing our talent, producers and ideas, to live up to expectations not only in Latin America but also the world,” said Alejando Rincón, CEO of Endemol Shine Boomdog.
In Spain -where over 70 original series will premiere in 2020-, several exclusive deals have been signed between independent producers and creative talents.
Early last year, Atreamedia Studios signed Javier Calvo and Javier Ambrossi, known as “Los Javis”, and their producer Suma Latina, to develop fiction and entertainment content, whether they’d be for third parties, or for Atresmedia platforms and networks.
The creator of Paquita Salas are producing their first joint project: new series Veneno, about the life and death of LGBTQ icon, “La Veneno”, which will premiere this year on Atresplayer Premium.
Ignacio Corrales, general director of Atresmedia Studios, described the deal as “a new step” in the company’s strategy. “Being surrounded by the best talent and making it exclusive. This will be one of the great added values and differentials for us in the market.”
The same thing was done by Bambú Producciones with producer and screenwriter, Josep Cister (former Boomerang TV exec) and screenwriter Diego Sotelo (Fariña, Velvet Colección), who recently joined the successful Spanish producer as showrunners.
“We’ve given them both a desk and told them ‘guys, this is your place to grow. Don’t worry, you’ll be comfortable, we just want you to create what you like’. It’s a process we dreamed about and is now a reality”, said Ramón Campos.
And Boomerang TV recently announced it signed a deal with director Salvador Calvo to develop new fiction projects for TV and film within the company.
According to Juan José Díaz, senior manager at Boomerang TV, with this new addition, they aspire “to continue maintaining a strong bet on gathering creative talent.”
Global Companies in Search for Hispanic Talent
The growing international appetite for series in Spanish has led major global companies to set their sights on the market’s most coveted creators.
Thus, Netflix set out to sign the creative minds behind Money Heist, and signed a deal with Álex Pina, marking the streaming giant’s first deal with a Hispanic showrunner.
Sky Rojo and White Lines are the next original series that Pina is preparing for Netflix through his producer, Vancouver Media.
Mexican director Manolo Caro has the second Hispanic creator to be signed by Netflix, thanks to the global success of his fiction, The House of Flowers. His next project will be the three-episode miniseries, Alguien tiene que morir.
Another streaming giant who opted to sign a Mexican creator was Apple TV+, which announced an alliance with awarded filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón. The director of Gravity and Roma will develop TV projects for the Apple streamer.
Amazon Studios also looked to Mexico to find talent, signing Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal through their producer La Corriente del Golfo. The actors and producers, who are currently executive producers of the upcoming series about Hernán Cortés and Moctezuma, will create and produce titles for Amazon Prime Video.
Lastly, Fremantle has also been expanding its creative division through Latin America. In February of 2019, the company signed a first-look deal with Chilean producer Fabula, from Pablo and Juan de Dios Larraín, to develop original series in English and Spanish.
And after working together on The Pack, they have now announced their second co-production: Talitha Kum.
Fremantle’s bet on Hispanic content went even further and in October, the company revealed the acquisition of 25% of The Immigrant, producer led by Camila Jiménez and Silvana Aguirre, known as the producer and creator of El Chapo. The deal marked the first investment in a Hispanic content company for Fremantle.
Weeks prior, the company made the surprise announcement of the appointment of former Polka executive, Manuel Martí, as director of Scripted Content Development for Latin America.