Parts of the world are clearly in a state of turmoil. Just look at what’s happening in the Middle East, North Africa, the U.K., Spain, and Hong Kong these days. But things in each of these regions aren’t as volatile as the situation in Latin America today. Just before the sixth annual MIP Cancun, the specialized LATAM TV market that takes place in Mexico on November 20-22, the region is awash in political and social turmoil.

The latest addition to all this turmoil is Chile, but at press time (late October) civil unrest is brewing in Ecuador, Honduras, Peru, and Bolivia. And Argentina was in the midst of the recently-concluded heated election season and a monetary crisis that has severely devalued the peso. The crisis in Venezuela is constant. And now Brazil is faced with such problems as man-made Amazon fires. Plus, Colombia has reached what amounts to an uneasy peace with the FARC opposition-armed group, and Mexico has a perennially high-level of corruption as well as restrictive economic policies that were imposed after last year’s presidential election. And this is all without counting the violent migrant crisis in the so-called Northern Triangle: El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

The only stable place seems to be Panama, but even there the U.S.-China trade dispute could slow down economic growth, while the cost of living continues to rise.

Nonetheless, towards the end of MIPCOM, participants started saying: “See you soon at the AFM” (in California), “at DISCOP” (in South Africa), and “at the ATF” (in Singapore). And many enthusiastically included MIP Cancun.

While still at MIPCOM, VideoAge Daily reporters quizzed a few attendees who said they were committed to attending MIP Cancun.

The most ecstatic of the group to respond was Rachel Glaister of All3media, which will sponsor an “Entertainment Formats Pitch” at MIP Cancun.

“We had over 30-plus entries,” Glaister said, “and are very pleased with that as a response. It’s a brand-new venture at a market that has never run anything like this before and we are looking forward to building relationships with the local production communities to build on this success.”

Similarly, Fabiola Bovino, senior manager of Marketing for Disney Media Distribution LATAM, said: “We’re proud of the 14 Produ Awards nominations that Monzon has received.” Monzon is a Disney LATAM original 13-part series about the controversial life of Argentine boxing champion Carlos Monzon, and the winners of the Produ Awards will be announced at MIP Cancun.

On the critical side, one regular MIP Cancun exhibitor questioned the rationale of having three LATAM-related markets (MIPCOM, MIP Cancun, and NATPE Miami) so close together.

Another factor determining some sellers’ critical assessment of the market is that small TV stations and networks in Central and South America are stuffing their morning-to-afternoon schedules with locally produced (read: inexpensive) programming consisting mainly of talk, news, gossip, and formats, while primetime schedules are filled by Turkish dramas. This leaves few time slots for other programs.

Innovative approaches to sales have not been very successful. Past MIP Cancun exhibitors reported that selling shows as replacements for weaker ones (as the U.S. syndicators used to do domestically) doesn’t work in LATAM because small TV stations are not sophisticated enough. “When they buy, they do it just on instinct,” said one seller.

This, however, could be an area in which a resourceful organization such as Reed MIDEM could help by identifying weak time slots on small LATAM TV stations and the type of replacement shows that would do better in terms of ratings.

Market organizers acknowledged that the market concept, even though innovative, is finite because it can only expand the number of exhibitors in proportion to the number of acquisition executives it can invite. Under this business model the main approach for the market to grow its revenues is to increase participation costs, which will add to the exhibitors’ grievances.

However, Benedicte Touchard de Morant, MIP Cancun’s new chief organizer, stated: “The market will continue to grow. The first year we had 40 buyers and last year we had 180 buyers! The market will grow due to the addition of two more conferences about co-productions and con-tent development. In addition, this year we added three new events: a format competition (sponsored by All3media), the Produ Awards Ceremony, and a networking breakfast, sponsored by the World-wide Audiovisual Women’s Association (WAWA).”

One suggestion for growth involved opening a section for distributors who are looking to acquire content to license in LATAM. “After all,” said one respondent, “the market value is in the buying and selling of content.”

Then there is the question of whether MIP Cancun cannibalizes MIPCOM or NATPE Miami. There are two schools of thought with regard to this topic. For cost reasons MIPCOM was never a must-attend among small LATAM stations, but it was a favorite of large production and distribution companies, like Televisa, TV Azteca, and Caracol. That said, MIPCOM is becoming less important for large LATAM buyers these days, but they do still attend — albeit with fewer people — for strategic reasons. “They don’t want to go just to NATPE Miami [in January] and dis-cover that some shows were sold to competitors at MIPCOM,” explained a LATAM TV executive. Also, MIPCOM is still important to LATAM’s independent distributors who go to Cannes to acquire product to distribute in Latin America.

So, the rationale goes, small LATAM TV stations stopped attending costly NATPE Miami in favor of all-expenses-paid MIP Cancun. But small LATAM TV stations were never one of the main staples of NATPE, which focuses on medium and large buyers who still attend in large numbers. In addition, contrary to MIPCOM, all LATAM indies distribute and attend NATPE only to sell.

MIP Cancun doesn’t look like a huge money-making event for Reed MIDEM, which also has to negotiate with the Moon Palace Resort, the market’s headquarters and hotel facilities, to keep its rates affordable.

Finally, MIP Cancun will not be able to count on ProMexico’s support this year. “We only re-ceived sponsorship from ProMexico, which, since last December, no longer exists,” explained Touchard de Morant.

Audio Version (a DV Works service)

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