Viacom International Studios goes beyond borders
Federico Cuervo, SVP and Head Viacom International Studios, tells Yako Molhov about the recent consolidation of the studios which allowed the company to implement its multi-territory approach and start offering an increased volume of high-quality content to various audiences throughout the Latin American continent and beyond.
To Catch a Thief
Federico, this year you assumed the position of Senior Vice President of VIS. What have been the biggest challenges for you since taking on the new job and what is your strategy for the company in the future?
2018 was the inauguration of Viacom International Studios, with the aim of transforming us into a studio with a capacity for development, production and distribution of content for the Viacom brands and third parties. The VIS platform is made up of 14 studios and teams distributed throughout the USA, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and Spain. In this first year, VIS has reaped very positive results. Earlier this year, I had the honor of becoming the leader of Viacom International Studios and was able to expand on and implement a unified management structure in line with the three mentioned pillars - development, production, and distribution. Our flexibility and alliances with strategic partners allow us to meet market demands and position ourselves as benchmarks for third parties. The results in this first stage, are really very encouraging since we have achieved double-digit growth and have 85% of the projects that were presented in different stages of development.

You spent more than ten years at Viacom International Media Networks. How has the content market changed in recent years and what is the “recipe for success” in today’s business, where the variety and way of consuming content is constantly increasing?
It has changed a lot in ten years and recently it has accelerated even more. Our industry is in the process of transformation and evolution, and we are part of that process. This is why Viacom International Studios was born to reach audiences efficiently, worldwide, at all times and on any platform. As in any evolutionary process, you have to adapt. Viacom goes thru this adaptation process by strengthening itself in three pillars: traditional free and pay linear television business, adjacent businesses, such as our VIS or consumer products and emerging businesses where we work on new content formats and digital platforms to add value. But all in all, the key is the creation of quality and renowned content, having the best strategic partners and being present on all available platforms.

What are the latest VIS projects? Do you have many co-productions in the works or do you depend primarily on your own resources when developing and producing content?
We have projects in various parts of the world. Our global sales include original productions, co-productions, sales of formats and sales of ready-made products. Likewise, our content covers all genres, from soap operas to dramas, short-form comedy and also cinematographic and demographic productions. Among the projects I can mention are the children’s series Club 57 with the Italian Rainbow Group, Noobees, made with Nickelodeon and Mediapro; Homens and Dani Who with Amazon; and R for Claro Video. Also, Ana with Amazon, and To Catch a Thief, the series based on Alfred Hitchcock’s film in co-production with our European office. We also produced Stranded with a Million Dollars in co-production with Mega and licensed it to TV Azteca and Univisión. Little Victoria is produced in association with Burman Office for Telefe. Co-productions are key to developing quality content. They allow our team to work in windows for each partner and to find a common ground to develop a world-class product together.

VIS has a broad portfolio of content in Spanish and Portuguese, in different genres. What is the process of development, production and distribution of content at VIS?
It all starts with a great idea. Our content development team, led by Mercedes Reincke, is challenged to create stories that make an impression on audiences and transcend borders. In this line, every three months, a content committee made up of executives and creatives meet to evaluate ideas and define projects. The business intelligence (BI) team is key to providing data that allows us to know trends and needs of audiences worldwide. From a production point of view, we have a team of technical professionals distributed throughout the world and 14 studios with facilities spread across Miami, Mexico, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. In addition, we work with studios in different parts of the world, allowing us to strengthen and transform ourselves into a global studio.

Club 57

How is the Latin American Viacom market different from other regions? What are the main details of content consumption in your region?
Beyond globalization, each market has its peculiarities and one of our main strengths, at Viacom, is to be in all markets and to know our audiences as few do. While we look for universal stories that are relevant in all markets, our Business Intelligence department provides us with key data on the audiences, topics of interest and particularities that make content development relevant and successful when it comes to local productions. That said, our overall goal is to develop and produce good stories for all types of audiences, attractive content for both children and adults, because our content is designed to be seen throughout the world. We look for universal stories that can travel throughout the continents. As in all markets there are trends that usually apply to specific regions, but today there are so many platforms and so much content available that it is difficult to draw borders in this regard.

What is Viacom’s strategy for the so-called “streaming offensive” - the main theme of MIPCOM this year? How will the launch of new services affect your business?
From the point of view of Viacom International Studios, our goal is to be a studio with the ability to align with various partners to co-produce or produce and be story developers for any platform. As I mentioned previously, given the greater demand for content, there are greater possibilities for a studio like ours to sell more and more, all over the world. Today, we work with linear and non-linear television companies, free TV, pay TV, social, digital platforms and the aforementioned, SVOD and OTT. Everyone is a customer, co-producer or business partner.

What is the VIS distribution strategy for this year’s MIPCOM market, what are its main highlights?
VIS seeks to position itself as a leader in the field of providing high-quality content. In this sense, we have many products that demonstrate the potential of the studio, comprised of many choices for instance, 100 Days to Fall in Love, comedies such as Backdoor, and the abovementioned titles. We have a large range, and we really want to continue growing. We have already announced a first-look deal with the renowned director, screenwriter and producer Juan José Campanella, recognized in Latin America, the United States and Europe, and it is just the beginning for what VIS will bring to audiences worldwide.
Federico Cuervo is Head of Viacom International Studios (VIS)- Americas. As such, he oversees the business development process across the Studio in the region. Prior to that appointment, Cuervo served as SVP of Production and Brand Head of Comedy Central and Paramount Channel. Cuervo joined VIMN in 2009 as VP of Production and Programming for MTV and VH1 Argentina. His remit includes also a position as Director of Production at GP Producciones and 11 years in the news team of Canal 13, Artear.
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