Brazilian Beat

Carla Affonso, CEO of Brazilian production company Cygnus Media, explains how the country’s formats market is adapting to a series of challenging but opportunity-laden changes.

Brazil’s TV landscape has been in a state of flux over recent years, as what had been a booming market feels the effects of a wider economic dip.

Yet the country’s formats market remains remarkably buoyant, with viewers lapping up local remakes of international formats, but also eager for content produced specifically for the domestic market in mind.

Carla Affonso, CEO of Brazilian producer Cygnus Media, knows this shifting market better than most, having worked for companies including HBO, AOL, Time Warner, and Endemol. The former CEO of Zodiak Brazil launched Cygnus with Patrick Siaretta in 2014, after buying out Zodiak’s Brazilian arm, and is behind an array of domestic remakes including Sing If You Can, Deal With It, The Amazing Race, Psychic Challenge and Bake Off Brazil.

“Brazil is going through a very special moment in the audiovisual market, with new players, volatile audiences, multiple business models, and a large number of viewers who are eager for new content,” she explains.

This complex environment is throwing up challenges for producers but also opportunities, boosted by local regulatory changes that support domestic production, and both scripted and unscripted format ideas are in demand.

“The government continues to incentivize local production, and independent producers are increasingly bringing to air more series with better quality,” Affonso says. “Free-to-air channels are looking for co-production opportunities and Cygnus now has several projects in development, such as an English-language historical series with TV Record called Jesebel and a musical comedy series with SBT, titled On The Road.”

Scripts and pilots for the shows are available and Affonso says there are international co-production opportunities for both programs as well. The rising interest among free-to-air (FTA) channels for co-pro partners is helping to support budgets, but Affonso adds that domestic programming is also making more of an impact on screen.

“Local formats are increasing their presence on air – demand has forced the market to reach maturity and now it is delivering good shows,” she says. Cygnus is in the midst of preparing two unscripted formats to debut later this year, with Sewing Box produced for Globosat and cookery-themed Chocolate Academy created for SBT.

Both formats will be available for global distribution, Affonso adds, but they face stiff competition from international formats that still enjoy success in Brazil. Cookery and reality formats remain popular and some shows, such as the local version of BBC Worldwide’s cookery format Bake Off, also straddle both the pay TV and FTA markets with considerable success.

Bake Off Brazil, which airs on SBT and Discovery’s Home & Health (H&H) channel, was the most-watched cooking reality show last year, and the second season of 15 episodes is now in the works. Endemol Shine Group’s perennial reality format Big Brother, which airs on Brazilian broadcast giant Globo, and Power Couple, which airs on TV Record, have also enjoyed rating success.

However, other changes to the market, namely the emergence of branded content, are providing more opportunities to production companies to develop fresh format IP.

“There are many initiatives being financed by the advertisers and getting good exposure and audience,” Affonso says. “Cygnus has produced for many sponsors, like Camil and Activia, and we have shows on air on channels including H&H.”

For local production outfits, this more recent development could encourage a shift towards domestic programming as budgets enjoy the boost of another source of finance. It’s also another sign of the evolution of Brazil’s TV market, and while it is becoming ever more complex, as Affonso notes, the result seems to be more opportunities emerging for both domestic and international outfits.