By Leah Hochbaum Rosner
For most TV executives, 2009 means new challenges, new hope, new budgets and NATPE. But for Pedro Felix Leda, head of Buenos Aires-based Ledafilms, the new year adds another meaning, reaching a remarkable milestone: the 35th anniversary of his eponymous firm, which he started in 1974. Though Leda began his career in advertising in the 1950s, he quickly switched gears when he recognized the opportunities abounding in the nascent production and distribution TV arena — a time when many TV shows were still broadcast live. In 1958, he was tapped to serve as manager of the film, radio and television division of Ricardo De Luca, one of the largest advertising agencies in Argentina. The following year, Leda was responsible for the production of nearly a dozen TV shows per week.
It wasn’t until 1974 that Leda decided it was time to go at it alone. But his then-small company quickly took off. A few months after launching, Twentieth Century Fox International TV named Ledafilms as its sales agent for Argentina and neighboring countries, a relationship that lasted two decades. In 1998, Ledafilms was appointed sales agent for DreamWorks SKG. Following the acquisition of that company by Paramount Pictures, Ledafilms increased its offerings to Latin American free-TV for both entities to 25 first-run pictures a year and a library of over 1,600 titles. In early 2008, Ledafilms was named sales agent for San Francisco’s Lucasfilm, and in just a few months licensed its new Star Wars: The Clone Wars series to a number of major territories.
VideoAge spoke with Leda about his firm’s 35th birthday, why he thinks he’s been able to weather the many storms in the industry and why he wouldn’t change anything about his decades-long journey to get to where he is today.
VideoAge International: Why did you decide to launch Ledafilms in 1974?
Pedro Felix Leda: I had already been active in the distribution of Latin American television programs and pictures since the early ’60s and decided it was the right time to establish my own company. It was a very small start — just an assistant, a secretary and me. A few months later came my first big break when the new company was appointed Twentieth Century Fox International Television’s sales agent for Argentina and neighboring countries, a happy relationship that lasted more than 20 years!
VAI: How has the business changed since you started Ledafilms 35 years ago?
PFL: The changes have been basically technological, i.e., 16mm black-and-white film was replaced by two-inch B&W videotape, which was replaced by one-inch color tape, which was replaced by DigiBeta… and now HD is starting to be in demand. In 1974, communications was a slow process. There were no computers, no Internet, not even a fax machine! Today, platforms are constantly evolving and multiplying. Back then it was only free-TV. But the essence of the business has not changed. The demand continues for well-produced commercial content that has to be delivered using the latest technological systems. But these days it has to be exhibited and marketed over an array of platforms. In our industry, every era has been challenging in a very exciting way. The best is yet to come.
VAI: Looking back on your years with Ledafilms, is there anything that you’d do differently? Why?
PFL: Since the early years, Ledafilms has always been very consistent with our approach to the business. We have always tried as hard as possible to be useful to both producers and clients. To be honest, there is nothing that we should have done differently and we expect to continue with this approach in the future.
VAI: How does your current product offerings differ from the product you represented when you first began?
PFL: The expectations of the TV viewer have not changed. Entertain me! That is always the demand. Even though series and films may be produced today in a more sophisticated way using the latest, state-of-the-art technical advances, our product slate still consists of good, solid commercial shows oriented for women, men, children or the whole family.
VAI: What’s up next for Ledafilms?
PFL: At least another 35 years of being the leading Latin American independent distributor for the type of content that audiences and the media demand.