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MIPCOM: Is Argentina the New Israel?

Issue 35 BKLOT Is Argentina the New Israel - H 2013
ABC/Bill Matlock
Electus' "Killer Woman" is based on an Argentinian format.

The fourth-largest exporter of TV formats worldwide (outranking "Homeland's" Mideast home country), the Spanish-speaking juggernaut (and MIPCOM's country of honor) could be Hollywood's next gold mine.

This story first appeared in the Oct. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

It's no surprise that MIPCOM would pick Argentina its country of honor for this year. Buenos Aires' booming TV industry long has been setting the trends the Spanish-language world has followed.

According to format production group FRAPA, Argentina is the fourth-largest exporter of TV formats worldwide, trailing only the U.K., the U.S. and the Netherlands. While Israel gets all the attention thanks to Homeland, Argentine creatives are arguably even more influential worldwide.

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"Argentina's creativity and production capability are now acknowledged worldwide," says Diego Guebel, CEO of Eyeworks' Cuatro Cabezas, one of that country's biggest production houses. "We have the capacity to develop innovative ideas that travel well and are easy to explain to a client."

Guebel attributes part of his country's success to demographics: Argentina's population, historically, more closely has resembled Europe's -- with a large, largely stable middle class -- than that of the rest of Latin America. That, he says, makes selling formats into richer territories like Germany, Spain or France that much easier.

"Argentina's market resembles others, like the Europeans, which is key when a channel is buying a format," he says. "International broadcasters always ask, 'Will it work well in my home territory? Is that territory like my market?' If the answer to both is yes, then the format will flow easier."

While the international image of Argentine TV might still be the cliched, melodramatic telenovela, the country long has moved on. Pioneers like model-turned-producer Cris Morena started the trend of youth novelas with hits including Tiny Angels and Rebel's Way, a movement that since has swamped Latin America.

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With new genre offerings such as satirical current affairs magazine Caiga Quien Caiga and action drama Killer Woman -- which Ben Silverman's Electus has picked up to remake for ABC in a pilot starring Battlestar Galactica alum Tricia Helfer -- it seems clear Argentina will continue to set the pace and shape the tastes of audiences in the region and beyond.