When Los Angeles-based U.S. Hispanic Network Estrella TV launched their distribution business at last year’s L.A. Screenings, the company’s foray into that side of the industry was so new, they didn’t even have a catalog. “I was hired about a year ago to monetize Estrella’s large catalog of TV content. We decided to pull the trigger and make L.A. Screenings the place to announce our plans, since it’s so important to the Latin American community,” said New York City-based Andy Weir, senior VP of Content Distribution, who had previously run his own distribution company and worked at Warner Bros.
Since beginning to offer its catalog of over 6,000 hours of content, the company has gained momentum. Broadcasters from the U.S., Ecuador, Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic have licensed hundreds of hours of Estrella TV content.
Weir said one part of the business that’s surprised him is just how low some of the pricing is for single territories (he’s used to selling pan-regional deals). “In some cases it can be cost-prohibitive,” he said. “If it weren’t for digital delivery, it would be too expensive to dub and send content to some territories,” he said.
Estrella has used representatives in certain territories — like Ecuador and Mexico. They also work with a company in Spain that handles Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Something else that surprised Weir was just how many territories are looking to create original content. Luckily the company has been able to meet those territories’ demands with three formats — talent competition reality series Mi Sueño Es Bailar and Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento and game show A Que No Puedes (which Weir describes as a combination of Fear Factor, “Stupid Human Tricks” and Family Feud).
One of Estrella’s newest shows — which was first made available at NATPE — is Que Jalada, an Internet clip comedy show which features three commentators in front of a live audience. It airs nightly on Estrella TV. “Spanish-language programming — unlike primetime lineups in English — often runs every night,” Weir explained.
Estrella’s newest series — which premiered in January — is Noches Con Platanito, a nighttime talk show (in the same vein as Jimmy Kimmel), that’s hosted by a comedian who’s also a “salacious clown,” according to Weir. The series, which runs at 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday in America, feature celebrities that are well-known throughout Latin America.
Weir and his company are hoping to soon announce deals in Mexico, Uruguay, Spain, Italy, Guatemala, as well as in-flight and VoD deals in the U.S.
“I’d like to go a little further into the Southern Cone of South America,” he said, “but there we start seeing cultural differences, since our programs are largely for the U.S. Hispanic market.”
One of the challenges Weir’s faced is convincing territories that rely heavily on telenovelas to try new genres. “I can’t tell you how many times people ask for telenovelas. We don’t have any and we never have.
“We’re trying, instead, to instill different thinking by counter-programming telenovelas with entertainment programs. People have to be willing to try something new.”