By Leah Hochbaum Rosner

With less than a month to go before the L.A. Screenings, it isn’t just the studios gearing up for wheeling and dealing. The Latin contingent is also getting in on the action, getting ready for a week’s worth of buying, selling and showing what they have to offer. VideoAge spoke with Miami-based Jose “Pepe” Echegaray, vp of International Sales, Latin America for the U.K.’s Power (to find out why the Screenings are especially essential for Latins, whether the economy will affect this year’s business deals and which is more important to Latin Americans: NATPE or the L.A. Screenings.

VideoAge International: What product are you bringing to the L.A. Screenings?

Pepe Echegaray: We’re bringing a whole bunch of stuff, including 15-20 brand new titles, which is surprising given the financial crisis around the world. We have our own productions, and we also represent RHI for Latin America. Power’s productions include The Catch, a 13-episode action-driven series about the narcotics world; and miniseries The Day of The Triffids and The Devil’s Mistress. From the RHI slate, we have The Phantom, River World and an all-new version of Alice in Wonderland, among other titles.

VAI: In years past, it seemed as if NATPE was the premier market for the Latin contingent. Is that still true or are the L.A. Screenings catching up in terms of importance?

PE: Both are important markets. If I haven’t sold a series in January, then I can still sell it at the Screenings. I’m always booked solid in both Vegas and L.A. Or I might have introduced a title in January and not had any footage to show at the time. Come L.A. Screenings, I’ll probably have something for buyers to see. People want to see something before they buy it, especially if it’s expensive.

VAI: Speaking of expenses, how will the state of the economy affect L.A. Screenings 2009?

PE: What we will see is that there won’t be any bulk buying. Buyers will cherry-pick and be very title-specific. A lot of people are experiencing massive budget cuts, as well as the devaluation of currency. This translates into ad dollars not coming into stations. This situation makes things extremely difficult for independents because in a tight budget year, many buyers will go to the studios first and end up with little to nothing left for the indies.

VAI: Did the longer than usual time gap between MIP-TV and the L.A. Screenings help or hurt?

PE: Honestly, I skipped MIP-TV this year because our Latin clients simply weren’t going. I said to myself, why spend all that money when we’ll see them in a few weeks in L.A. anyway? It simply didn’t make financial sense. I don’t think the time gap will have any effect.

VAI: Which territories are most important for you? Why?

PE: Every country is important, but in order to get a production dubbed into Spanish, you need to sell it first to Argentina and Mexico. Luckily, we’ve been successful in both countries. This year, we’re also focusing on Brazil in order to expand our footprint. There are a lot of stations there and much of our inventory has not been licensed there yet. Those are the three primary markets, though we of course sell into markets like Venezuela, Colombia and Peru as well as a slew of Central American countries.

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