Streaming is changing the media landscape in Latin America. The time of the Telenovela, when more than 90% of homes across the country were tuning into the same show every night, is over. Thanks to SVOD and OTT services, TV models in Latin America are segmenting at an alarming pace, and the demand for content seems endless. The question remains – will the production industry and regulators be able to keep up?

Producing Productions

Once upon a time, television in Latin America was predominantly geared towards national markets. With a multitude of SVOD and OTT services pushing their way into the continental market however, production has become more segmented – and thus, ramped up significantly. 

“Turner Latin America used to produce 20 hours a year of high-end scripted series; now it produces around 120 hours, of some 8,000 hours of total programming,” explains Tomas Yankelevich, Executive VP at Turner Latin America. 

In terms of scripted shows currently being produced or in development, the Spanish-language genre has grown to be the third largest in the world, according to a study by Ampere Analysis.

It’s not just how much content that’s being produced that’s changing – who’s producing it and for which market is also fast evolving. Mexico, for example, has become a powerhouse for paid content. 

“Mexican pay TV average revenue per user has been traditionally relatively low,” explained Yankelevich in an interview with Variety. “With close to 40 million Mexicans living in the U.S. and HBO Max going direct to consumer, however, Mexican content is now very valuable for the new market.”

Trending in-Hand

In these huge markets that are growing with values, experts are more interested in knowing when, where and how viewers are consuming content. In most of Latin America, the answer to those questions is in the palm of your hand. 

Penthera conducted a survey across Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Argentina, asking consumers about their viewing preferences for online content. According to the survey, an overwhelming 90% of viewers said they prefer to watch content on mobile devices.

Mobile is the dominating preference for content consumption in Latin America. According to the same study “Latin Americans overwhelmingly stream video from mobile apps at home (93%), followed by when they commute (28%) and when they’re out and about (24%).”

As Streaming and OTT services compete for viewership, they should keep a close eye on how users prefer to consume their content. According to Jodi Susman, Chief Marketing Officer at Penthera, the “top five things that Latin American viewers consider when selecting a subscription service: a mobile app, ease of use, the content they like, the ability to download videos to their phone or tablet, and the guarantee that content won’t buffer.”  

“Data from our Latin American survey shows that viewers are most frustrated with: re-buffering (58%), long start-up times (52%), and ad stalling (40%). These frustrations are a massive problem from providers as they contribute to high churn rates,”  Susman added.

Staying Local

Another point for those competing in the streaming wars in Latin America: localism rules. 

“Latin America is working more and more with Latin America,” says the Wit’s Bertrand Villegas, citing a burgeoning pan-regional remake business. “The main market TV operators have to care for is their own.”

Some governments even mandate that productions are local. In response to the increased content demands by viewers, the Mexican government passed a new regulation requiring that 30% of the content offered on any streaming platform or OTT service be nationally produced. 

This may not be a problem for streamers with deep pockets, but it poses a challenge for newer services hoping to compete in the digital market. 

“There are other measures to promote and stimulate national audiovisual production, such as requiring that dominant platforms such as Netflix contribute financially to this, without the need to impose obligations that threaten the diversity of options in access to cultural goods for users in Mexico,” said R3D  – a non-profit Mexican organization that lobbies for digital rights – in a public statement. 

Content with a Crime

Many LatAm media companies are used to producing their own content. According to Globo CEO Carlos Henrique Schroder, Globo’s OTT service Globoplay is “producing ever more original content,” with six new series this year, not to mention returning titles.”

Producing unique content is one way that streamers differentiate themselves in large markets. However, it also opens them up to one of LATAMs most common (and little regulated) crimes: online piracy.

According to a study by WIPO, “once content is made available online, the corresponding piracy searches decrease in Brazil by approximately 6 percent per year.” If it’s available on two platforms, piracy decreases by ten percent, and if the same piece of content can be found on four platforms, piracy searches for that piece of content go down by fifteen percent. 

The argument follows that content cooperation can be a way to combat online piracy. 

“Even when considering different business services models – both subscription-based services or on-demand purchases – the findings are similar” explains the WIPO study. “The greater the availability of content across multiple legal platforms, the less likely people will be pirating that content.” 

Redirecting funds towards legal licensing activities is a potential option for companies looking to minimize pirated content in Latin America – an especially good option for streamers looking to fill a seemingly unfillable content roster.

“There won’t be money in the world for platforms to 100% finance all the content they need, targeting each and every demographic [in Latin America],” complains Manuel Martí at Argentina’s Pol-ka to Variety. The demand for content in the region far outcries the industry’s current supply. 

According to Marcos Santana, Telemundo Studios president, there is only one thing certain right now – TV’s past is solidly in the past. 

 “The TV [model] which functioned for 60 years making low-cost novellas is dying. Latin American audiences have migrated to quality TV made in their language,” says Santana. “It’s irreversible.”