Summit Focuses on Telenovelas’ Future

The talk was about telenovelas and where they’re heading, and the hope was that the genre would continue to be the main programming staple of the Latin networks well into the future.
That’s how the ninth annual Cumbre Mundial de la Industria de la Telenovela y Series de Ficción, or Telenovela Summit, began and ended early last month at the JW Marriott in Miami, Florida.

Organized by the indomitable Amanda Ospina, publisher and editor of the Miami-based TV Mas magazine, the Cumbre registered some 150 Latin TV executives from the U.S., Latin America and Europe.

Over a three-day period, some 33 panelists touched on subjects such as licensing and merchandising, Hispanic (Spanish-language viewers in the U.S.) audiences, acquisitions and scriptwriting, among other topics. Disney’s Leonardo Aranguibel spoke about co-productions and adaptations in Latin America, Telemundo Network’s Leonor Sotillo touched on the subject of Web channels, Ecuavisa’s Ana Cecilia Alvarado discussed the power of drama series in Ecuador, Telefutura’s German Perez-Nahim moderated a seminar on various business models and Latin Media’s Jose Escalante presided over talks about production and content supply. An entire day was devoted to scriptwriting, and Cuban-born, Miami-based Delia Fiallo, one of Latin America’s most well known telenovela writers, received an award for a prolific career.

Televisa’s Martha Zavaleta offered an artistic view of telenovelas at the event, illustrating the need for new actors in the TV sector by comparing a star to a leader. “Nowadays the work schedules of the top actors are absurd and the stars cannot keep up with the pace. This is why the industry needs more stars,” she explained. Zavaleta also pointed out that, at times, TV stars lose their leadership roles due to an awkward attitude or troublesome circumstances. Over time, some actors become too passionate on camera, appearing unnatural and unbelievable, she said.

Venevision’s Cesar Diaz explained the changing world of international content distribution, touching on the challenges facing telenovela sales internationally. After Europe — first Western Europe and later Eastern Europe — then moving to countries such as Romania and Russia, telenovela sales boomed in Asia, especially during the 1990s. Nevertheless, each territory in the region presented its own unique challenge, since, for example, kissing couldn’t be shown in India, and in Indonesia no violence is allowed on screen. Today’s challenge, according to Diaz, is represented by territories such as Italy, Turkey and Greece. As far as Africa is concerned, the continent is a Babel of languages, key channels are government-controlled and there are too few commercial TV outlets.

Peruvian TV director Dan Relayze Gerhardt illustrated the Peruvian experience with telenovela production that began in 1959. “During the initial period,” explained Gerhardt, “they became very popular, but later their popularity declined. Today, however, the Peruvian public is rediscovering the genre and stations are broadcasting up to five telenovelas per day.”
Mexican TV director Jorge Rios Villanuevas pointed out that those who publicly say that they only watch news and sports are, in reality, all telenovela viewers.

But telenovelas weren’t the only topic being discussed at the event. At times, the equally interesting conversations fell outside the scheduled program. For example MGM Networks’ Marcelo Coltro spoke about En Busca De La Nueva Diva, a reality show that searches for the next diva or estrella (star).

The Cumbre is a creation out of the fertile mind of TV Mas’ Amanda Ospina, who tenaciously and, at times single-handedly, managed to bring it to its ninth edition. The Cumbre began in 2003 right here in Miami, in the very same location where the 2011 edition was held. After its inaugural year, it took place in Spain (two years in Madrid and two in Barcelona); Buenos Aires, Argentina; Bogotá, Colombia, and in 2010 it was held in Lima, Perú. This year, the Cumbre returned to its birthplace in Miami where, curiously, it honored the same person whom it honored in 2003. The awards were cleverly dubbed “The Delia Fiallo Awards.” Participants witnessed a very heartwarming and emotional ceremony recognizing this living giant of the telenovela industry.

Although it’s a relatively small event in comparison to other markets such as NATPE, the Cumbre brings to light new challenges facing Latin America’s most celebrated serialized dramas and offers top-level Latin TV industry executives the unique opportunity to mingle in a cozy environment — a rare treat despite their close proximity to one another.

Ospina, a former telenovela actor-turned-publisher, is not known for her meticulous organizational skills, and even though each Cumbre is often considered the result of a miracle, the fact remains that her devotion and dedication to the Latin American TV industry — and telenovelas in particular — are well appreciated by participants and sponsors alike. Many may at first resent her persistent sales pitches, but ultimately they relent and let Ospina be Ospina, helping her Cumbre succeed.

VideoAge has never been involved in Cumbre’s event structure or organization, but over the years it’s been one of the few international TV trade publications to give Ospina its support, reporting on the summit’s outcomes.

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