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Free-To-Air TV is losing ground. That old habit of Mexican viewers to always turn on the TV set to watch free channels is becoming something of the past. Instead, it is mostly American series what viewers are tuning in to.
Federico Baumgarter, manager of LAMAC, explains this growth which he doesn’t hesitate to describe as “the pay television boom.” “What makes a difference with free TV productions is innovation and the investment on series production. Each episode of these new programs is equivalent to a movie. This quality level has produced a 25% growth in the number of subscribers.”
That means that, from June 2009 to June 2010, some 2 million Mexicans have hired pay television services, seduced by the new seasons of series like Glee or Doctor House. It’s not then by chance that both series had in Mexico a 50% growth in penetration level since 2008. And that precisely in 2010 the first season of Modern Family, an Emmy award-winning series, was released; and also The Big Bang Theory’s fourth season, whose lead actor, Jim Parsons, was awarded for best comedian in 2010 by the American TV Academy.
“Habits are changing and audiences are looking for new contents, certainly finding them in those series broadcast by cable channels,” says Baumgarter.
This boom means that 37% of Mexican homes already have some pay television system, figure which places it third in the Latin American penetration ranking, only behind Argentina and Colombia. At this pace, Baumgarter calculates that in 2012 penetration will reach 50% of households.
Eduardo Lebrija, manager of the Mexican MTV-office, is more optimistic: “It will happen before. Free-to-air TV and pay TV will have an equal share in the 2011 percentage.”
Lebrija has his own explanation for this growth. “MTV has grown together with its audience; we have never produced new programs with old formulas, and that’s why the viewer looks for our contents.”
The aim of achieving 50% of the Mexican market in 2012 depends on a factor that Baumgarter is clear about: “We depend on the quality of our series. Each of our programs has to be better than the one before.”
They Filled a Gap
Mario San Román, manager of TV Azteca, offers his view of the implications of pay television’s growth: “We, from the free-to-air TV channels, used to be the ones to make American series known to the Mexican viewers. Now, the pay channels are the ones doing part of the job.”
Indeed, in the 80s and 90s, Televisa and TV Azteca were the most accessible channels to watch American series. The trend started with shows such as Friends and The Simpsons —which is in its 21st season. All of them were first a success on free-to-air television.
In this respect, Televisa and TV Azteca get now an advantage upon releasing series, as the public is already familiar with them from being exposed to them through commercials. The paradigm of this new model was The Sopranos, which was first broadcast by HBO. The final episode of this series achieved the historic figure of 12 million viewers in Latin America.
Two years after the The Soprano’s release on pay television, the series was picked up again by TV Azteca.
The 2010’s phenomenon is Glee. Its second season’s first episode captured 11 million viewers in Latin America.
Leopoldo Gómez, Televisa’s news vice president, has taken note of these new TV habits which are, in his opinion, very good news. “The public has become interested in watching new series but, above all, good quality ones,” he says.
In Gómez’s opinion, the creation of more and more interesting stories goes a long way towards the improvement of TV culture at large.
Guillermo del Bosque is general producer for Telehit, the Mexican pay television channel with the highest production rate. He states that this format has advantages that Mexico is only now discovering.
“I have dozens of comedians and actors who want to do a program on Telehit. Little by little they have come to realize that a pay channel offers different possibilities, a freedom of expression that sometimes is not as easy to find on free-to-air TV.”
Telehit is about to release a new program series which Del Bosque defines as “a renewal,” with the aim of attracting the pay television audience.
In fact, Televisa and TV Azteca have been aware of the new habits for the last five years and are looking forward to entering the new series market.
This 2010, for the second time, a Mexican series has been nominated for an Emmy International award. It’s Los Simuladores, which broadcast its second season and will have a 3-D format for its next one. “I’d like the viewer to get into the habit of watching Mexican series. For all of us to leave aside the xenophile attitude of watching American series,” says the series producer Eduardo Suárez. He knows that the only way to change this habit is by making “good quality series.”
Source: El Universal
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