The 27th edition of the Jornadas exhibition was advertised as a three-day event: September 19-21, so it was surprising for participants entering the basement area of the traditional Hilton Buenos Aires venue on Tuesday — the market’s official first day — to find stands still under construction in the large exhibiting hall.

In effect, the South Cone’s premier cable TV networks conference and market started on Wednesday and, in the process, it became a one-day market, since on Thursday the exodus began at 3:00 pm. And the rainy weather did not help, either.

The contraction is a reflection of the status of the television business in Latin America in general, which is going through consolidation and financial hardship. To top it all, Jornadas opened in the midst of one of Mexico’s deadliest earthquakes.

The evolution of Jornadas, as the Argentinian cable TV market days are called in Spanish, followed the development, growth and consolidation of the South American TV industry.

Originally referred to simply as Jornadas de Cable, today the event is called Jornadas Internacionales, and one of the two organizing associations, CaDiSSa — the national association of satellite TV signal distributors — has changed its name to CAPPSA. The other organizing association, the Argentine Cable TV Association (ATVC), has kept its original name. The former is the association of content providers, with a board composed of representatives from HBO, Turner, Disney-ESPN, Telefe, etc., while the latter is the association of cable TV operators.

This year, the exhibition portion of Jornadas featured 59 stands, of which 20 from the content side of the business: a definite contraction of the market compared to previous years when the presence of content companies was more prominent. The stands were housed in the Pacifico Hall of the Hilton Hotel, with sizes varying from nine square meters (for U.S.$4,000) to 18 square meters (for U.S. $13,000).

Naturally, the consolidation of Viacom with Telefe helped to reduce the number of exhibition stands. Also lower was the number of participants, now down to an estimated 1,000 from a peak of over 5,000 a few years ago. As for the number of seminars, from 23 last year, there were 20 this year, some of them organized by Disney/ESPN, Turner and HBO LATAM. From the point of view of recreational activities — a good telltale sign of the health of a trade show — there was just a small cocktail organized by AMC. In terms of announcements, FOX Networks LATAM presented their plans for a football (soccer) channel.

The Argentinean event is definitely shrinking, but the organizers seem to refuse to acknowledge that fact, which is well known among the local trade press, or to make innovating changes. However, seminars seemed to hold up, with rooms often full.

One amusing aspect of this year’s event was that some stands, like the ones for Food Network and India’s Zee, were very impressive and creative. Also surprising was the prominent presence of the Indian TV channel.

Over the years, the Jornadas conference and exhibition has moved around in terms of venues and calendar dates. In 2004 it went from the InterContinental Hotel to the Sheraton Hotel, and in 2007, in its 17th annual edition, to the current Hilton Buenos Aires venue. The Sheraton proved to be a more popular choice than the InterContinental Hotel since the larger exhibiting space could accommodate the increased number of exhibitors of Jornadas 2004.

As for the changing starting days, the event moved from November — as late as November 19 in 1995, when it was still called ATVC-Caper — to October 17 in the year 2000, to November 12 in 2002, until it permanently moved to the month of September in 2007 (starting on September 25); it was held as early as September 14 last year and September 19 this year.

Nevertheless Jornadas remains the most important industry trade fair in the South Cone for regions like Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Peru, even though attendance tends to swing drastically and is mostly from Argentina, the South Cone and the U.S., with some presence this year from Spain, France and Germany. Mexico exhibited with Televisa, but TV Azteca was missing, as well as Colombia’s Caracol.

The only challenge Jornadas faced was in 1999 during in its ninth edition, when there were attempts to organize a competitive event. Today, the only challenge for Jornadas could be Ventana Sur (South Window), an annual film market held in Buenos Aires and created in 2009 by Argentina’s National Film and Audiovisual Arts Institute (INCAA) and the Marché du Film/Festival de Cannes. This year it will be held November 27 – December 1. Ventana Sur will be housed once again at the Universidad Catolica Argentina in Buenos Aires’ Puerto Madero district, which is 1.5 km from the Jornadas’ Hilton Hotel headquarters. Ventana Sur screenings take place nearby at the waterfront multiplex Cinemark Puerto Madero.

The Hilton Buenos Aires is also located in Puerto Madero, a trendy barrio (district) on the waterfront and across the Puente de la Mujer (Women’s Bridge).

Since its inception, Jornadas reflected the vicissitudes of Argentina’s political environment, with the country going through six presidents and several economic and political crises.

The market was started during the presidency of Peronist Carlos Menem (1989-1999), who privatized many industries and led to free-market economic policies. Menem was followed by a brief presidency of Fernando de la Rúa (1999-2001), under whom Argentina suffered the “Great Depression.” De la Rúa was replaced in 2002 by Eduardo Duhalde (who was nominated by the Congress, not elected) for just one year. In 2003 Néstor Kirchner was elected president and, in 2007 that post was won by his wife, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, when he did not run for re-election. In 2015 Mauricio Macri was elected president. Previously he had been Chief of Government of the autonomous city of Buenos Aires and in the past had attended Jornadas.

During Jornadas’ 27-year existence, television in Argentina went from government-run stations to privatization and deregulation, to media concentration and punitive media laws (under Cristina de Kirchner), new media laws have now been proposed by president Macri.