Argentina Opens Doors to Overseas Partners

The country is a thriving hub of TV production.

It's not just the land of telenovelas and the tango. A series of panels and presentations here in Cannes have brought home the point that Argentina is a thriving, albeit financially-challenged, hub of TV production.

The country's content and international strategy is MIPCOM's special focus of attention this year.

In two different sessions Tuesday it was clear that the diversity and quality of local production in and around Buenos Aires has never been richer, and that a growing cadre of U.S. players are setting up shop there to tap into the talent and tease out exportable formats.

What they're finding when they get there is an increasingly sophisticated broadcast and production scene.

On the local front, Liliana Parodi's indie channel America TV is experimenting with what she called "in vivo" production, involving 16 hours a day of live continuous video; Claudio Villlarruel runs indie outfit On TV, which has made hard-hitting and award-winning exposes of societal ills, including the widely circulated Saint and Sinners. And Claudio Martinez, CEO of El Oso Prods., is experimenting with applying entertaining storytelling elements to educational programs about science, math and history.

As for highly exportable content, producer Victor Tevah of Pol-Ka Prods. talked about what led up to the success of Violeta, an ambitious telenovela-tinged teen soap, which has traveled far and wide.

"At some point we realized we needed to go beyond our borders -- to open up to the rest of the world." His outfit began its outside collaborations some years ago with HBO and Fox, eventually undertaking the re-versioning of ABC's "Desperate Housewives," and then they made an arrangement with Disney to co-produce Violeta.

"It is astonishing what talented people and companies in Argentina can do together. Although we and our co-partners had different approaches, we came together around the same goal," Tevah said.

U.S. companies have increasingly come to regard Argentina as a fertile ground for partnerships on localized product that can migrate elsewhere.

In a second panel focused on co-productio,  execs repping three U.S. players with established strategies south of the border described their various approaches to the market.

Diego Piasek, executive diirector for the region at Ben Silverman's Electus, talked up the company's efforts to find "jewels that translate" and to start "producing our own IP in the territory."

His company's Killer Women, which will air on ABC mid-season, is based on an Argentine hit called Mujeres Assassine.

Meanwhile, Fox Intl Channels' SVP told the attendees that his company has set up a full-fledged production operation in Buenos Aires, which has already produced 1,000 hours of programming.

And finally Eduardo Ruiz, president of A&E Networks Latin America, talked about the variety of quality local producers that the company has been able to work with in Argentina.

"We have an executive production team that oversees production and they have identified the key players in specific genres that regularly deliver, Ruiz said. "They have the right mix of quality of people and know-how. Even with economic problems endemic, it's the best production home for us in the region."