Conecta Fiction & Entertainment 2024: the global trend of local content

With a variety of panels, keynotes, pitching sessions, networking spaces, and awards, the event reaffirms its goal of being an audiovisual bridge between Europe and Latin America.

20 JUN 2024

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Conecta Fiction & Entertainment continues developing its eighth edition at the El Greco Congress Palace in the city of Toledo, Castilla-La Mancha. With a variety of panels, keynotes, pitching sessions, networking spaces, and awards, the event reaffirms its goal of being an audiovisual bridge between Europe and Latin America.

In the morning, the panel “Business Models: Reimagining Financing” took place. It was moderated by Justin Crosby (Tellycast UK) and featured participants Renato Martínez (Endemol Shine Brazil), Suzanne Frank (ZDF Studios), and Paloma Mora (TV On Producciones). Martínez commented on the evolution of Brazil: not long ago, the market was dominated by telenovelas, but streaming has changed the landscape. Now, the producer - part of the Banijay group - produces reality shows for renowned brands like Big Brother, Master Chef, or Love is Blind. However, these contents are approached as if they were telenovelas: villains, heroes, love, tragedy, comedy, etc. Asked about financing models, Susanne Frank stated that they have financial models and partners for each project. She also noted that in the post-Covid world, viewership peaks have dropped and budget cuts must be managed, but she maintained that the audience is still eager for content.

Paloma Mora believes that there is a high demand for various genres. She claims that regional financial aid in Spain is not less than national aid and can be combined: they are cumulative, not exclusive. She also received applause for suggesting the possibility of producing content in official languages since it will travel the world anyway if the content is good.

Another celebrated activity was the Max Keynote: “The Value of Original Production in Global Streaming.” The talk was moderated by Fernando Calviño, CEO of Señal News, who interviewed Mariano César, SVP Content and Programming Strategy at Max. The executive mentioned that the 37,000 hours of content available in Latin America show an enormous diversity of catalog pushing narrative boundaries. He sees the growth of unscripted and reality formats as strengthening trends. Asked about the challenges of local production, César considered it excellent but very challenging since big brands with huge fandoms impose high-quality standards. He asserts that local content establishes a different type of relationship with people's lives, emotionally impacting the audience across borders and generations. He also indicated that, although there are no recipes for identifying how to greenlight a project or a success, it helps to work on content that already means something to the audience and those historical or true crime contents that generate conversation and shed new light.

Next was the panel “Focus Brazil: Panorama III,” where Mónica Pimentel, VP of General Entertainment Content, Warner Bros. Discovery, Gustavo Gontijo, Executive Producer for Development, O2 Filmes, and Rosangela Wicher, Business Development, Floresta, discussed original Brazilian production and upcoming projects. Pimentel began by highlighting the importance of Warner's screen ecosystem: "We have a powerful ecosystem that allows us to produce and optimize our content across different platforms and windows."

Currently, the company is producing with O2 Filmes the film “City of God. The Fight Rages On,” which will premiere in August on Max and continues the story of the renowned 2002 film: “We still have some stories to tell, such as the militias starting to have an effect in Rio,” said Gontijo. Additionally, WBD is working on two telenovelas in Brazil: “Beleza Fatal,” which premieres in January 2025, and “Dona Beja,” produced by Floresta. Wicher mentioned that to promote this story, besides the marketing department’s work, “good stories and talent are fundamental.” Regarding the telenovela genre, Pimentel added: “It still remains in Brazilians' memory, and it allows us to meet the demand for new content by revisiting stories deeply connected with the people.”

Then, Jerome Merle, Local Original Production Brazil & Latam Director, The Walt Disney Company Latin America, and Gustavo Mello, Executive Producer & Partner, Boutique Films, joined the panel to give their perspectives on Brazilian production. “Our DNA is good stories. When you have a good story with strong characters you can work with, it works,” said Merle, who also announced that season 5 of “Impuros” will premiere soon, and season 6 is in production. "We have to offer our local users a really good story. If it can travel abroad, even better. If we succeed on the organic side of the story, we can reach the entire region,” he added.

Mello emphasized the ability of Portuguese-language content to travel to other territories and announced the upcoming global premiere of “The Negotiator,” produced with Spiro Films, with Boutique retaining IP ownership in Brazil. In the panel “Adapting Entertainment to Local Markets: The Magic Formula,” Marteen Meijs, CEO of Talpa Studios, and Carmen Ferreiro, Entertainment Program Director, Atresmedia, discussed the recent adaptation of Talpa Studios’ format “Juego de Pelotas” in Spain by Atresmedia. Meijs highlighted the Netherlands' role in the industry: “The Netherlands is the third-largest exporter of formats globally, with 15% of the share.” The format was sold to the United States, Germany, and now Spain: “We focus on making programs that can travel,” he added. Ferreiro said that at Atresmedia, “When we look for adaptations, we primarily look for something that meets the channel’s needs, has worked in other countries, and fits our slot and local talent,” leading to the decision to bring this format to Spain. RTVE then shared its latest productions. In the panel, moderated by José Pastor, Film & Fiction Director, RTVE, and Alberto Fernández, Director, RTVE Play, the participants discussed the company’s recent and upcoming releases.

Samantha López Speranza, director of “Asuntos Internos,” spoke about the police thriller set to premiere soon on RTVE. The series is set in 1979, where Clara Montesinos (Laia Manzanares), a member of the first class of women police officers, arrives at a station where the heroin epidemic shapes the neighborhood's life. There, the new inspector will learn that being an officer is much tougher than she thought, especially in that assignment. Then, Esther Agraso, Head of the International Department at Plano a Plano, shared details about “Cicatriz,” co-produced with RTVE, the Balkans, Hungary, and Poland: “It’s the first time the Balkans, Hungary, and Poland co-produce content with a Spanish company.” The series will premiere first in Spain on RTVE and then on Prime Video. Finally, Ramón Lara, Co-Founder & Executive Producer, Producciones del Barrio, previewed “Megamix Brutal,” which will premiere on June 25. The documentary series follows the story of one of the most profitable businesses in Spanish music, generating immense wealth and many shadows, delving humorously into a phenomenon that broke sales records and forever changed the industry.

Skyshowtime also held its respective Keynote, moderated by Neil Batey of C21 Media UK, who interviewed Kai Finke, Content Officer of the company. Finke highlighted that Spain has grown in quality and storytelling in recent years to the point where several of its products travel globally. He mentioned that producers have the opportunity to pitch projects with the company’s team based in Madrid. He also emphasized that they are open to choosing genres, highlighting noir, drama, comedy, dramedy, and true crime. He believes it is a good time to be realistic about budgets and join forces not only to pay the bills but also to attract audiences. Finally, he noted that they want to continue betting on sports content since, in his view, unscripted and sports documentaries will continue to grow in the coming years.

In the afternoon, the "Focus Portugal Overview II" took place. It was moderated by writer Patricia Muller and featured Pandora Cunha da Telles (Urban Filmes), Fernando Vendrell (David & Golias), and Maria Joao Mayer (Maria&Mayer). Fernando Vendrell (David & Golias) stated that the beauty of producing in Portugal lies in its uniqueness: a unique color approach, difficult to explain, different from Spain and other neighboring countries. The executives agreed that in Portugal, film development takes a long time to give each project an appropriate approach. This is due to the scarcity of doors to knock on, meaning the development and effort must be precise. Finally, the panel identified that co-productions arise from a lack of funding but also from the need for creative impulses.

One of the most important moments of the event was the awards ceremony. It was presented by Conecta Director Géraldine Gonard and began with a percussion performance by the Brazilian group Batukaika. The first images of the extensively announced series “Weiss & Morales,” a German-Spanish co-production filmed in the Canary Islands, were also shown. The screening was preceded by a panel featuring Susanne Frank (ZDF Studios), Nina Hernández (Portocabo), Wolfgang Feindt (ZDF), José Pastor (RTVE), and Peter Nadermann (Nadcon). The producers emphasized that the development was a process of learning and communication. They commented that it was a pleasure working from the differences to deliver a realistic and diverse product while also being entertaining. They also assured that they did not want to invent anything but to create a soft crime drama entertaining for the whole family with a novel format: 4 episodes of 85 minutes each, offering good possibilities for audience share and loyalty.

The awards gala considered 356 projects, of which 40 were finalists. The winners of the various recognitions and awards given to the participating projects in the five pitching categories organized in this edition were announced: Copro Series (fiction series and mini-series), High-End Series (high-budget projects), Music Series (series where music has a fundamental presence), Docudrama Series (documentaries with dramatized reenactments), and Feelgood Formats (original entertainment formats that convey positive energy).

One of the most significant recognitions awarded during the evening was the Council of Europe Award for Series Co-Production Development, valued at €50,000, which went to the Macedonian project “The Adventures of a Turbo-Folk Princess.” The jury ruled in favor of this title because “through its uniqueness, bravery, and freshness, it gives voice to underrepresented stories.” This award, aimed at fostering creative collaborations in series co-production and strengthening independent producers, is part of the Pilot Program for Series Co-Productions, an initiative of the Council of Europe, home of Eurimages. It involves a non-refundable grant dedicated to covering expenses during the project's development phase. The use of this grant will be governed by a formal agreement between the winning project and the Council of Europe.

Federico Martínez & Alan Levy