American production studio Electus has opened its doors to Latin America by co-producing series directly with locally-based companies and television channels.

The studio produces more than 4,000 hours of content and distributes it to more than 220 countries across the globe, with Electus Digital recently adding a Latin American division.

“Our shows are produced with an international vision,” says Paulette Bensussen, head of Electus Latino. “Our mission is to work with the greatest studios and networks in the United States, creating original shows that are relevant to everyone. We mostly seek [shows] that originate in the United States, but that we can own and disseminate to the rest of the region and generate local versions.”

Mexican-born Bensussen sees great opportunities for the Latin American market provided there’s strong content, great ideas and solid relationships.

“Money is readily available, there’s a desire for original and creative content, and for professionals with a background in American television but experience with Latin American culture to ensure things are done authentically,” she says.

Approaching Partnerships With Sensitivity

It’s that mentality that inspired Bensussen to launch Electus Latino in May, creating a hub in Mexico City in addition to the main headquarters in Los Angeles.

“We already have the right shows to debut in the region, and the business—at the distribution, original production and co-production levels—is already perfectly established internationally. So I thought rather than selling our own options to producers in Latin America, why don’t we partner up with them to produce our own formats?”

The strategy spans regional production studios as well as networks and is largely focused on partnerships.

“We want the market to be attractive for all creators, including writers, directors, producers and talent, so they can create interesting, groundbreaking shows, which networks need,” she says. “Direct relationships leave the door wide open for a range of production opportunities across all channels and producers.

Electus will start by targeting Mexico, then expand to Brazil, followed by Chile and Argentina. Bensussen considers Mexico a leader in the Latin American television market.

“Formats that work in this country usually also work all the way down [to South America], she says. “And this is a clear example of how television is changing for the good, since other networks have more opportunities and there is no longer the monopoly of just doing the typical telenovela.

Although Electus focuses on non-scripted formats, the strategy for Latin America is focused on whatever format works best for the region, from game and variety shows to big dramas, series, and of course telenovelas.

“If it’s a drama for Mexico, we’ll try to connect with the Mexican audience through themes that are specifically Mexican and not predominantly Latin American,” she says. “In this sense, we focus on producing high-quality dramas that have their own flavor, but that also appeal to regional and international audiences.”

Formats in Progress

For instance, Electus has brought Fox’s American show The Moment of Truth —a program based on answering a series of increasingly personal and embarrassing questions—to both Chile and Peru.

And, El argentino más inteligente, a version of CBC’s Canada’s Smartest was adapted for El Trece in Argentina. The show, hosted by journalist Jorge Lanata, is dedicated to the search for people based on Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, which includes six types of knowledge: visual, physical, musical, logical, verbal, and interpersonal.

Other examples include ABC’s Bet on Your Baby, a competition among babies licensed to Brazil’s Globo, or Gánale al chef, the Mexican version of NBC’s Food Fighters for Azteca 13, where amateur cooks put their skills to the test.

Likewise, Latino versions of NBC’s Fashion Star and ABC’s The Toy Box are underway with pan-regional partners.

The studio will produce The Toy Box with toy manufacturing brand Mattel.

“It is a good example of how we are incorporating and giving opportunities not only to networks, but also to brands, to form programming partnerships in elegant and coherent ways,” says Bensussen.

In general, Bensussen tries to approach the players in the region with sensitivity.

“It’s another world; other customs, another philosophy,” says Bensussen. “Yes, there is a community in the Latin American region, and that’s why we can consider doing shows that are regional, but we need to adapt them with sensitivity. You have to connect with the audience by knowing its wants—for example, if viewers prefer long- or short-form entertainment. We have to work with partners who know we require flexibility and who can adapt the format to the market according to the needs of the audience and the network.”

Overall, “we never see an adapted format that is identical to the original format, but we also try to give it its identity and integrity, elegantly tailored to the region without crushing it,” she adds.

For example, while the American version of The Toy Box features a segment with an expert panel where the toy is first evaluated and feedback is given to the inventor, this is not planned for the Latin version.

“It is not relevant; it renders it a bit slow and it isn’t in line with the spirit of the region,” says Bensussen. “We removed it to focus on the interaction of the children with the inventors and to see how they interact instead of concentrating on the interaction of adults with adults.”

A Home in the Region

Bensussen considers it a business advantage to enter the market with an American vision.

“This speeds things up and it makes it more efficient,” she says. “It is a very exciting time, during which there is abundance in the market for free-to-air TV, paid TV and SVOD,” she says “I believe that for all the platforms, there are realistic opportunities to create incredible shows while respecting and appreciating the relationships, contacts and ideas that are available and ready for a home.”

Version español: Electus trae programación inspirada en Estados Unidos a Latinoamérica


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