Venevision International, the global sales unit of Venezuela’s media giant Grupo Cisneros, earlier this month announced the launch of a new formats division to promote and sell the company’s extensive catalog of TV genres, which include Spanish-language soap operas, musicals, game shows and talk shows. Venevision CEO Luis Villanueva responded via e-mail to a series of questions from Hispanic TV Update. An edited transcript follows:
Q: Venevision recently announced the creation of a new formats division. How will the new division work? And what is its main objective?
A: The new division is in charge of promoting and selling our formats in the genres of drama and game and talk shows. We have in our catalogue successful formats that we have been selling worldwide in countries where there is demand for proven, internationally successful shows that can be produced and adapted locally and where we can sell the knowhow that has been developed around those products. On the other hand, we have production capacities that we can leverage for those countries with interest in local versions, but lack the technical resources to produce it. We have decided with this new division to formalize this activity, build a format catalog and dedicate personnel and resources to the development of this business opportunity.
Q: Latin America has traditionally been a natural market for both Grupo Cisneros and Venevision. How important is the U.S. Hispanic market in your expansion plans?
A: We have been always active and interested in the Hispanic market. Our programming has been a regular feature on the Univision network since its creation. In Venevision International, a company that started as a TV-programming distribution enterprise, we have been growing and diversifying since 2000 in several markets such as music (Vene Music and Siente Music), TV programming production, film distribution, pay TV (VeneMovies) and more recently in mobile distribution and content production (Latcel and Venemobile). The Hispanic market has always been of interest for us, more now than ever given its positive demographics and purchasing power.
Q: Telenovelas continue to be the bread and butter for the nation’s largest Spanish-language networks, with Grupo Televisa taking the bulk of the ratings -- and ad dollars -- on the Univision networks. How have Venevision novelas fared among
A: Our telenovelas are very popular in the U.S., where they have been present for a long time and are broadcasted exclusively in Univision, under the same contractual framework as Televisa. Our programming has been a regular feature on Univision, Telefutura and Galavision, where you can see some of our talk shows, such as Casos de familia, Quién tiene la razón; musicals such as Tu desayuno alegre, as well as our telenovelas. We need to grow and diversify our production to satisfy both Univision’s and our international client’s demand.
Q: In 2006, your company launched VeneMovies as a pay TV channel in the
How is that doing?
A: We have reached 1 million subscribers in less than two years and have had excellent receptivity both in the audience and from cable companies. We are now expanding distribution and are in talks with satellite companies to fully penetrate the market. VeneMovies is a well-known presence already in all festivals and markets of the film industry, where all players recognize the importance of this vehicle to promote the Spanish-language films and to satisfy the entertainment needs of an audience that loves movies.
Q: Venevision in 2007 launched a mobile unit to produce online content for mobile devices. How is that division performing? Are users ready to pay to receive on-the-go programming in short form?
A: This division is growing and very successful in the U.S. and Latin America. Yes, the market is paying for short-form clips and this is a key business for any content producer, [which] has to think of the market as a multiplatform [market]. That is the key for the future and this market will become key as entertainment distribution becomes more pervasive with the new cellular phone options and new devices.
Q: Besides mobile, what other vehicles do you foresee as ideal to help distribute Venevision’s large content catalog?
A: We see a strong online presence as key, as broadband and convergence blend the traditional and new technologies.
Venevision claims to be among the pioneers of product integration in the
Hispanic market. Can you give us some examples of this?
A: We were one of the first companies to try to integrate brands and services into our content and did some successful ones in Latin America in the area of retail and consumer products. We recognize that the advertising industry is going through a revolution and that product integration is the key in facing the new technologies that are fragmenting the audience and affecting what is called “synchronic” television.
Q: In your opinion, what are the main trends that will shape Spanish-language media and entertainment in the next decade?
A: I think there will be an expanding offering of Spanish-language entertainment. We already see it happening in the number of TV channels available and the increasing interest from all industries in targeting the Hispanic market. Our audience loves and is loyal to the mother language, a fact proven in all research, especially at home and with the family. The positive acknowledgment of the roots and the increasing acceptance of diversity will collaborate in keeping this market growing and with better opportunities.