By Erin Somers

To weigh in on where the Latins stand at this year’s NATPE and what areas of the region are poised to take off in 2010, VideoAge called on:Jose Antonio Espinal, COO of brand new Miami, Florida-based Somos Distribution; Raphael Correa Netto, head of International Sales for Sao Paulo, Brazil-based Globo TV International; and Susan Bender, president and CEO of New York-based Bender Media Services.

VAI: How is this NATPE shaping up for Somos Distribution?

Jose Antonio Espinal: This NATPE is very important to us. We are just launching the company, and this is an event where we will meet our friends and many people with whom we have had great relationships over the years. We hope to show them what we can do and demonstrate the business philosophy of the company, as well as its products and standards of service.

That being said, we have a great catalog of movies, series, animation and a variety ofprograms of high quality from the companies we represent in Latin America and Europe. We will also be showing our first original production.

VAI: How is this NATPE shaping up for Globo TV International?

Raphael Correa Netto: We always have big plans for NATPE. It’s a key market for us because it’s like the year’s kickoff game. All our Latin American partners attend NATPE, and it’s the first and best platform for meeting with them. We’re bringing a brand new catalog this year, which we’ll present at a breakfast screening on Monday the 25th.

VAI: How is this NATPE shaping up for Bender Media Services?

Susan Bender: We are always very excited about NATPE, as so many of our clients are in attendance.  Our “dance card” is very full, so it looks as though it will be a very good convention for our company.

VAI: Do you expect a lot of buyers to be in attendance?

JAE: We expect this NATPE to be on the positive side of business. The economy is improving, which should make a difference in the market’s attendance and the disposition of the buyers. It’s the ideal time for us to be present and premiere Somos Distribution.

RCN: I think we’re going to have more or less the same attendance that we’ve seen in recent years, despite the fact that the market is going through a structural change. It seems like the market continues to grow from year to year, even though the economy has been bad. Regardless of attendance, NATPE always fulfills our expectations. The quality of networking we accomplish is more important to us than the attendance figures.

SB: In our case, our client base remains practically the same as last year.

VAI: Are you happy about the hotel suite format of the market?

JAE: The suite format has worked for everybody in recent years and is more efficient in terms of cost for many participants. We know the organizers are aware of all the pros and cons of the format and do their best. We have not seen any problems in the years that this option has been made available, and in fact, it’s being used more and more by all companies, so we have to assume it’s been successful.

RCN: To be honest, it doesn’t effect us very much. Globo has been in the suites for many years, so it’s more of a continuation for us. At the end of the day, I think the change will make the market more concentrated.

SB: Bender Media Services has always been a suite exhibitor. In our opinion, having everything in the Suites will expedite the needs of our clients.

VAE: In your view, is the TV business improving?

JAE: The TV business is always tied to the economy, since advertising revenue is the key driver in the market. As the economy moves out of the recession and businesses start spending more in media, the effect spills over to the TV business, which is what we expect this year. Positive signs were already present at the last events of 2009.

RCN: The market is bouncing back from 2009. Last year at this time, we didn’t know what to expect. No one had a clue as to what the crisis would do to the industry, so it caused a lot of tension. Now, a year has passed, and we know where we are. The television environment around the world has been able to react positively to the economic downturn. We’ve been able to manage a repositioning in the new economic environment without suffering too great of a loss.

SB: In my view, the TV business is ever changing!  I began my career 35 years ago, selling product in Latin America, and over the years there has been a “revolution” in the needs of our clients and products they are looking for.

VAE: What is your company’s primary growth area?

JAE: As a new company, all areas have the potential for growth. We have been very careful in selecting attractive programming from companies that have been successful in their markets, but need support in penetrating such a complex territory as Latin America. We have been in this business for more than 25 years and know the players and the ins and outs of the industry and its audiences. We hope to be helpful to our partners on both sides: producers as well as channels.

RCN: International business has been growing in the last few years. Additionally, we expect tremendous growth in the Brazilian advertising sector this year, specifically in the free TV industry.

SB: Bender Media Services currently continues to license predominately to traditional TV, Pay/Cable, and DVD.  We are currently pursuing ancillary sales to cruise ships, airlines, mobile phones, etc.

VAE: Which Latin territory do you see improving or increasing?

JAE: We are very optimistic about several countries in Latin America: Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina and several Central American countries. We’re also looking to the increasing importance of the Hispanic market in North America, where we have great experience with all the players and the different distribution platforms.

RCN: Latin America as a whole has suffered from advertising investments. Mexico has suffered a lot. But the Latin American economy has been able to hold on. Latin America as a region will improve when it gains more maturity in the political and regulatory areas.

SB: Our company continues to license to all of the Pan-Regional Pay/Cable Channels, as well as the Free TV channels throughout Latin America.

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