Caracol Reignites Pipeline of Premium Series

Dago García, VP of Production at Caracol Television, spoke to TTV Digital Preview about the different premium series projects the Colombian group has in store, including El cartel de los sapos, Chichipatos, No llegaron solos, and two musical biopics.

Six months after having suspended all filming for its fictions, Caracol Televisión resumed production for its first two projects in September: the third installment of El cartel de los sapos and a Netflix original comedy Chichipatos, prior to the already announced second season.

In conversation with TTV Digital Preview, Dago García, VP of Production at Caracol Televisión, shared details about these and other new fiction projects in development, both for the local screen and for the international market.

How is production being restored in Colombia?

We are in a quarantine sector. There is a lot of uncertainty regarding everything. We resumed filming for two projects in September, one that we had to interrupt and the other new. They are going to give us an idea of what is going to happen in the future.

Which projects are you starting production on?

Right now we are in the development phase, taking advantage of the quarantine to focus on things we have in the production line. When the crisis broke out, we had projects in development, pre-production, production and post-production.

Development and post-production work has not been affected. In terms of production, we had to interrupt El cartel, a project that we have within a pre-purchase agreement with Netflix. We had approximately 70% of the production ready. In September we resumed with all the security measures. In fact, we made some modifications to the production scheme to move some things to more manageable environments.

What is this third installment about?

It is a prequel to our series El cartel de los sapos, of which we have already done two medium-length seasons. It tells the origin, where the Norte del Valle cartel came from.

Has history been altered by the pandemic?

No. The series was already written in its entirety and 70% produced. As it is not filmed in order but rather according to production plans. So we have scenes from the last episodes already filmed that establish a compromise. What we have done has been to move from locations to a studio. We have modified some scenes where there was a lot of physical contact to respect social distancing. In certain cases we have reduced the number of characters on stage. Such measures have been taken. The bulk of the story was impossible to modify.

What is the other project that has started filming?

We are going to do a special episode of Chichipatos prior to the second season, but I can’t share anything due to confidentiality issues with Netflix.

What is the status of the project of No llegaron solos, the historical series in co-production with Powwow and Isla Audiovisual?

We are already finishing the development stage. We have written a teaser that as soon as we can we want to shoot it to start moving it in the international market. It’s a big-budget series that hasn’t been told before. The stories and the official history of the conquest of America have always been focused on male characters and what people ignore is that more than 28,000 women arrived in America and, within these, women who played a very important role.

Are there more international projects in development?

We have another premium series project with Netflix and another with Amazon that also already has a green light. We are waiting for the situation to normalize. And we also have two co-productions with Netflix that have to do with icons of Latin American music.

What can you share from these projects?

Netflix Originals are always 8-10 episodes per season projects. The pre-purchase projects, which are both for our screen and for the platform (such as Pablo Escobar: el patrón del mal, Bolívar, La esclava blanca or Alias JJ) are normally 60 hours. But now we are working on intermediate formats, between 20 and 30 hours. They are two biopic projects about very important figures in Latin American music.

In this sense, Caracol has a line of series based on the lives of popular music artists…

We have realized that our productions, when they involve music, work well for us on our screen and travel very well. For example, The Queen of Flow and now Love and Live, which is traveling very well.

Is that where Caracol’s international series plan is headed?

By mandate of our Board of Directors for about six years we have sought to become the first content provider for Latin America and for the Anglo market. In fact, we have been developing projects to offer to the Anglo market.

We have a strategy of being independent. That the economy of the company does not depend exclusively on broadcast TV. We know that in Colombia we still have a long time to continue operating our antenna. Fortunately, we have been managing leadership for eight years that has allowed us to have a good balance, but we also want to live off the international market. Both from La Productora and with Lisette Osorio in Miami, we are destined to attack the market.

Is fiction still viable on broadcast TV?

Of course. We have a grid structure in which we combine entertainment and fiction. We usually start the prime after the newscast with entertainment. Either paying licenses for formats such as The Voice or My Name Is…, but also our own musical formats such as A otro nivel or adventure formats such as Desafío. And humor formats such as Festival internacional del humor or La vuelta al mundo en 80 risas.

Then, from 9:00 pm to 11:00 pm, we have our fiction time slot. We have what we call “light product”, between 9:00 and 10:00 pm; and something more adult from 10:00 to 11:00 pm. We continue to bet hard on fiction. In fact, we have four ready-to-shoot projects on the production line by the time the situation returns to normal, and another four are in development, among which there are some pre-purchase titles for Netflix.

What are these fiction projects?

We have a historical project on the Bolívar line, The White Slave and The Queen of the Indies, which is called Las Villamizar. It is a fairly ambitious project that combines adventure with historical drama. A kind of Charlie’s Angels, but located in the struggles of independence.

We are developing a musical project with a very popular group called Ventino. A group of four girls who sing pop and are the madness on social networks. It is not a biopic, but it is a story with them about the formation of a girl band.

We have a project called El rastro, based on our red chronicle program with very shocking cases. From there we build a dramatization.

What’s your outlook on the evolution of the industry in the region?

I believe that we are in a good moment where the panorama has finally begun to settle. We come from a somewhat chaotic time. Digital technology advances very fast, even faster than the legal framework. And I think we have started to find synergies.

At first we looked at each other a little suspiciously, as radical and half-exclusive competitors. And the public does not establish that commitment of exclusion. People watch these televisions at the same time. And in that sense, we have begun to partner. We realized that the best promotion strategy for a series that is going to go to a platform is its exposure in the local market, and it is in the best interest of the platforms that the productions have had air in their country of origin.

We have cases like La Reina del Flow, Bolívar, Pablo Escobar; and even with things that we are repeating, like Pasión de gavilanes, which become a success on our screen and then also become a success on the platform. These synergies have also appeared with certain cable channels such as HBO or Sony.

These windows are opening regional content to the world…

In this regard, exposure on global platforms such as Amazon, Netflix, now Apple TV+ and in the future Disney+ has been important. Latin American production has transcended the Latin American circuit and has been projected to the world.

The latest release of a Colombian production, The Robbery of the Century, by Dynamo, is in second place in Spain and fifth in the most watched series in the world. Bolívar reached a very interesting global diffusion. The platforms are very jealous with the data they give, but we found an indicator in Bolívar: he had an exponential increase in the views of his profile on Google.

A final message for the Latin industry?

I think the call is for us to take advantage of this time to think hard about the industry, about the content and about strengthening all the ties that we are establishing in this situation. If we can walk together and create these types of associations, when the situation is normalized, we will all benefit.