Nickelodeon Sets Telenovela Adaptation as First Global Series to Be Produced at Viacom Miami Studio

Viacom International Studios - H 2015
Courtesy of Juan Botera

'I Am Frankie,' based on a Latin American show, focuses on a female robot who must navigate teenage life.

Viacom's Nickelodeon on Wednesday unveiled telenovela I Am Frankie, an adaptation of a Latin American series, as the first show that will be produced at the new Viacom International Studios in Miami.

The company has said it will use the studio, which has two 15,000 square-foot stages, as a multi-platform production hub for all of Viacom's brands.

I Am Frankie is based on Yo Soy Franky, which Nickelodeon Latin America produced in Colombia and which was created by Argentine writer Marcela Citterio. It premiered across Latin America late last year.

The English-language version will target a global audience, Nickelodeon said. Catherine Ledeboer, who has written multiple Nickelodeon hits, including Every Witch Way and Talia in the Kitchen, will handle the adaptation.

I Am Frankie is the story of Frankie, "an experimental android who navigates the perils and wonders of being a teenager," according to a show description. "Frankie looks like any other girl, but functions like the newest computer: complete with Internet access, extensive memory and a hard disk. Frankie goes to school and no one but the members of her family know her secret. She adapts to the real world quite well, despite having no feelings or emotions, but all that changes when she begins to experience family life, make friends and have a boyfriend. Her biggest challenge will be to fall in love without her operating system malfunctioning."

Production will begin in the second half of 2016. Nickelodeon has ordered 20 episodes of the 30-minute series. The show will be distributed to Nickelodeon's global audience spanning 160 countries and territories via the brand’s more than 80 channels and branded blocks.

"Miami has been a content hub for Nickelodeon for some time, creating global hits such as Every Witch Way, among others," said Cyma Zarghami, president of Viacom's Kids and Family Group. "Our talented team in Miami is truly expert at the daily serialized format — and continues to innovate their approach to both content and platforms. I Am Frankie is a fresh and different format and has an incredibly talented team behind it."

Pierluigi Gazzolo, president of Viacom International Media Networks, Americas, said the Miami hub fits into the company's content strategy. "Viacom's commitment to top-quality productions is greater than ever before — as audiences continue to demand more and more content," he said. "I am delighted that this innovative new show is among the first to be produced in this new turnkey facility."

He also told THR: "Given the success of the first season of Yo Soy Franky and the extraordinary performance in markets such as Mexico, Argentina and Colombia, we decided to greenlight a second season of Yo Soy Franky for the Spanish-speaking Latin American audiences and the first season of I Am Frankie for an English-speaking, global audience. I Am Frankie offers universal themes that resonate with girls and tweens, such as discovering new friendships and having a love interest."

Explaining the importance of the Miami studio for the company, he added: "Viacom already spends $4 billion annually on content. Internationally, our investment in content has grown 20 percent per year on average over the last three years. And in Miami, our Americas business has increased its production output in Miami threefold over the past five years. The studio brings even more opportunities to create content for a variety of formats — specifically for three pillars: for Latin America, as we have a talented multilingual team in Miami; for English-speaking markets, such as the U.S. — this will be our third telenovela format that we’re marking for a global audiences from Miami; and international audiences — as there are great opportunities for us to easily replicate studio-based shows for all of our brands and markets in multiple languages."

Tied to NATPE, Gazzolo, Zarghami and Bob Bakish, president and CEO of Viacom International Media Networks, will host the Viacom International Studios grand opening party on Wednesday night at the new studio.