Keshet International—the global distribution and production arm of Israeli media company Keshet Media Group—ended the year boasting a growing global presence and particularly strong exposure in Latin America following the 2017 opening of a production company in Mexico.
While the company has been active in the region for several years, Kelly Wright, VP of distribution and new business, says this year has been pivotal thanks to the ability of Keshet MX to connect the company’s enterprises across North, Central and South America, as well as supporting expansions into other regions.
“Launching Keshet MX was a strategic decision to help bridge our incredible business at Keshet Studios in the U.S. with our successful formats in Latin America,” says Wright. “There is so much talent in Mexico and so much happening there that is being dispatched to other parts of Latin America and the world. So it made sense to set up [in the country].”
Keshet International includes local production subsidiaries in the United States and Asia, and Keshet Media Group considers Latin America a boot camp for its international formats. In addition to opening Keshet MX in 2017, it also launched a company in Mumbai and is acquiring another in Munich.
Keshet also has diversified into new verticals such as movies, kids programming, digital media, virtual reality and gaming.
“As a content company we seek to bring the best storytelling to the world through our global network,” says Limor Gott Ronen, VP marketing and communication for Keshet International. “We strive to be the best partner there is for both creators and broadcasters across platforms looking to acquire content with the Keshet hallmark of quality.”
Positioning in Latin America
Its programming spans all genres and includes both original content and third-party acquisitions as it strategically builds on its expertise as a broadcaster in Israel.
“Our domestic audience [in Israel] is a key creative driver for us: Israelis are notoriously hard to please, always craving new content. They are both impatient and discerning. This, along with the fact that Israel is a cultural melting pot of many different nationalities, makes it an incredible test bed for the global marketplace,” says Gott Ronen.
The executive also highlights creativity and inventiveness as essential qualities when working with relatively small budgets in Israel.
“Our content is scalable for other markets,” she says. “What we have to do is bring quality through our storytelling, with very strong scripts such as those for the shows Prisoners of War, False Flag and The A Word, as well as focus on being technologically savvy.”
“The market is maturing and the challenge for broadcasters is to adapt quickly enough to compete,” continues Wright. “We have faced the same problems in Israel but we have become good at attacking it by creating series with a premium feel, while using our budgets carefully.”
The executive considers Latin America a good originator for great stories with the potential to blossom into large international successes.
“We see our role as shepherding some of these projects into significant breakthroughs, so they can clear new roads and unlock previously impenetrable markets,” she says.
Genres and Formats in Action
Keshet International has defined new production partnerships with major players in Latin America, such as Telemundo, with whom it is co-developing a major series targeted at the U.S. Hispanic market, and a partnership with Televisa to adapt four of Keshet MX’s series, two of which have already been produced: Easy Money (Mita y Mita) and Loaded (MINT).
The company also announced an agreement with Mexico’s TV Azteca to co-produce a 60-episode original big-budget series in Spanish, expected to launch in 2018.
Likewise, the company has inked deals with Telefe in Argentina, Mega in Chile, and Globo in Brazil. Regarding the latter, Boxed stands out as a show in which participants enter a modular box designed by experts and must work out their differences with help from a trained mediator in order to escape.
In Uruguay, the kid-focused talent show Master Class from Teledoce has been well received; and in Colombia the Caracol TV program Boom! just debuted.
In terms of genres, Keshet tends to stick with reality and talent shows, as well as game shows —either running them on their own or as part of a programming block. When it comes to scripted formats, the company has recognized the regional shift from telenovelas to premium series.
A Unique Digital Imprint
Keshet also uses its digital skills to reach its audience. For instance, the show The Feed relies on social media to help it create a global culinary guidebook.
Another example is Domination, a primetime family game show where the whole audience gets involved, and players select groups of viewers to provide answers on certain topics, and interact with them via several screens.
“The key to this show is that it looks very impressive, and it feels like a live show, but it is produced on a reasonable budget,” says Gott Ronen.
Along those same lines, Rising Star, which landed in Brazil and also aired on ABC in the U.S., was considered a pioneer in the region for creating “a completely new experience, where the voting is integrated into the content itself,” says Gott Ronen.
During each episode, viewers at home decide who will advance in real time via the show’s free voting app, while individual viewers’ pictures appear on the large screen facing the performer as judges vote simultaneously. This creates an interaction of percentages across different screens to reveal the new star.
“We want to keep our viewers engaged because they are a meaningful part of the creation, bringing them from their second screen forward to the main screen,” says Gott Ronen.
Celebrity Showmance is another example of a format that leverages social and digital engagement to attract viewers. In this show, six celebrities, all active on social media, are paired into three “couples” and challenged to promote their fake relationship using inspiration from famous celebrity relationships in the press and on social media.
Unifying the Region
The common thread of all Keshet’s partnerships is built on taking risks.
“We understand our partners’ challenges and their markets and we partner with people willing to shake up the way things are done,” Gott Ronen says. “Partnerships, based on credibility and experience, are about finding common ground in the cultures between us and them, working so that our partners stand out and, in turn, they teach us something different each day we work with them.”
Latin America, regarded as a region full of potential, is an important piece in the company’s overall growth strategy.
“The new Mexico division demonstrates our commitment to Latin America and the U.S. Hispanic market,” says Wright. “We want to continue to build our presence in regions such as Ecuador, Uruguay and Peru, with the goal of uncovering more local talent and introducing Keshet’s unique brand of programming to all corners of the region. This part of the world is very important to our business.”