Sunday, March 11, 2018

Tatiana Rodríguez Outline's Nickelodeon Latin America's Growth Plans

A spread of live-action originals from across the region and a Miami studio are key to Nickelodeon Latin America's (Latinoamérica) growth plans. C21 Media's Nico Franks reports.

Two shortform spin-offs to 'Vikki RPM' were carried by on-demand service Nick Play

Overseeing a range of Viacom-owned Latin American children’s brands, including Nickelodeon and Nick Jr., means Tatiana Rodríguez must keep tabs on the constantly evolving viewing habits of kids across a diverse and challenging region.

The Senior Vice President (SVP) of Nickelodeon Latin America’s kids and family group joined Viacom in 1997, back when the Nick brand was still in its infancy in the region having launched there the year before.

Tatiana Rodríguez, SVP, Nickelodeon Latin America Kids and Family Group

Since then, Nickelodeon has been joined by Nick Jr, Nick HD and Nicktoons, plus non-linear platforms such as the Nick Play app and Noggin, Nickelodeon’s first preschool SVoD service.

After over two decades in Latin America the ongoing challenge Nickelodeon faces is to remain relevant to an audience of youngsters whose attentions have rapidly shifted away from linear TV to platforms such as YouTube.

But one advantage Nickelodeon has over its digital-first competitors is an in-depth knowledge of the region and, as Rodríguez describes it, “the differing tastes and consumption habits” of the various countries.

Colombian viewers, for example, prefer more traditional stories and animation and skew a lot younger than in countries like Mexico, where live-action is more popular than animation. Each country’s Nickelodeon channel feed in Latin America differs from the other, with Rodríguez’s aim being to make viewers in each market feel like they are represented on screen.

As a result, Nickelodeon Latinoamérica makes a habit of casting its live-action series pan-regionally to bring in talent from Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Brazil, “to make sure we cover as many markets as we can in a subtle way,” says Rodríguez.

She picks out Mexico and Brazil as the Lat Am countries where Nickelodeon is strongest, while Argentina and Colombia are at the other end of the performance chart. Rodríguez puts this down to the latter countries experiencing the biggest shift in viewing from cable for non-linear options.

Rodríguez is in no doubt that her audience's viewing habits have changed permanently, but she believes linear TV remains a fundamental part of the broadcaster’s overall output. “We are spending so much time with research studies around the world and in our markets, trying to understand the new way of consuming. The reality is they are online and I don’t think they’re going to stop being there. But they are also watching TV,” says Rodríguez.

Moreover, Viacom’s research has told Rodríguez and her fellow executives at Nickelodeon and Viacom that TV remains the primary place where children in Latin America discover new shows. It’s just that nowadays they want to consume more and more content based on those shows in the digital world, she adds.

Musical telenovela 'Kally’s MashUp' was co-created by 'Glee' executive music producer Adam Anders

“We need to have content for all the platforms because the audience is everywhere. The biggest issue we have is a measurement for digital platforms that is official. But we know they are there, so we need to continue to develop great content for linear whilst producing extensions for the multi-platform world,” says Rodríguez.

An example of this strategy is the spin-offs to Nickelodeon Latinoamérica’s telenovela Vikki RPM (formally known as Fórmula A, 60×60’), Mecanickando and Velocidade da Luz, which were made available via on-demand service Nick Play. The spin-offs provided a backstory to the series, which follows a girl who dreams of becoming a Formula 1 driver.

“The idea is to always find ways to tell different sides of the story on different platforms and keep the viewer engaged everywhere. We cannot lose opportunities to do that,” says Rodríguez.

Produced by Somos Productions, the series is filmed on location in Miami and at Viacom International Studios, the production hub for Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN) Americas that opened in Miami in 2016. I Am Frankie, the English-language remake of Nick Lat Am’s Yo Soy Franky, was the first show to be filmed there.

“Where we film a show depends on our production partner and where the story comes from,” says Rodríguez, adding that, as shows will air pan-regionally, it is important that they don’t have a specific sense of place.

Meanwhile, Viacom’s US$345m acquisition of Telefe in 2016 has provided Nickelodeon Latin America with the opportunity to produce series at the Argentinian broadcaster’s Buenos Aires studio. The first of these was Kally’s MashUp (60×60’), a musical telenovela co-created by Adam Anders, who was executive music producer on Glee.

The show follows the adventures of a 13-year-old musical prodigy who moves from a small town to a prestigious music university. Rodríguez points out that each song in the show is in English, given the popularity of artists such as Selena Gomez and Bruno Mars in the region, both of whom sing in the language.

Nick linked up with Spain’s Mediapro on eSports show N00Bees

Another way Nickelodeon Latin America is striving to stay relevant is with commissions such as N00Bees (60×60’), a scripted series about gaming and eSports produced with Spanish production firm Mediapro.

Created by Enrique Pérez at Mediapro Group’s Madrid-based production company 100Balas, the Spanish-language show follows a group of friends who create an eSports team and is about to go into production in Bogota, Colombia.

It will be filmed in the same Mediapro-owned studio where series such as Chica Vampiro and Yo Soy Franky were made and later aired on Nickelodeon across Latin America. This followed Mediapro’s acquisition of Televido, the producer of the latter two shows, in 2016.

The series will air on Nick across the region in the third quarter of 2018 and will be dubbed into Portuguese for viewers in Brazil. It will also feature footage from Mediapro’s Professional Videogames League, which it claims is the biggest eSports league in Spain.

It was important that Nickelodeon Latin America partnered with Mediapro on the series rather than attempt an eSports-themed series on its own, adds Rodríguez, because of Mediapro’s experience in competitive gaming, giving the show important credibility.

Mediapro’s studio produced Nickelodeon’s 'Yo Soy Franky'

Rodríguez applies the same principle when it comes to tapping into the scores of famous YouTubers in Latin America who hold so much sway among young viewers.

“We’re adding them to our world little by little. I don’t feel like we have to do it all the time, as sometimes it can feel fake. One of the best things the YouTubers have created is authentic communication, so you have to replicate that. But replicating authenticity is almost impossible,” says Rodríguez.

This slightly Catch-22 situation is managed by trying to make these influencers’ appearances in Nick shows as natural as possible. For example, the network added categories such as Best YouTube Story and Meme of the Year to the various Kids Choice Awards it holds in Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and Argentina.

As a result, more than 30 influencers turned up to cover the awards in Mexico and Colombia, at no cost to Nickelodeon and ensuring the events received promotion on the YouTubers’ various social media accounts. Meanwhile, the YouTubers gained exposure on linear TV –something Rodríguez says they still value.

Rodríguez emphasises, however, that Nickelodeon works with YouTubers when they are “fun and cute” but before they grow older and their output becomes “a little more edgy.” As a result, Nickelodeon Latin America doesn’t sign exclusive contracts with YouTubers but works with them on a more ad hoc basis.

Nevertheless, there is still much that established networks could learn from the many youngsters who have a direct line of communication with their audience. “I wish we could communicate with the audience the way YouTubers do, which is so real and honest,” admits Rodríguez. “That’s why kids follow them.”

A recent study by Digital TV Research predicts stagnation for Latin America’s pay TV industry – with fewer than five million new pay TV subscribers set to be added between 2017 and 2023 – which means the race is on for companies like Viacom to ensure its brands remain relevant.

Rodríguez says that as long as viewers are watching Nickelodeon content – be it on Nick Play, via its YouTube channels or on its linear channel – “we’re happy.” The key challenge, she admits, is making sure the audience isn’t lost as they move from platform to platform.

More Nick: Nickelodeon Latin America & Mediapro Partner For New eSports-Themed Scripted Series 'N00Bees'!
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