Think of Latin American TV and you think of loud gameshows and wall-to-wall soaps. Well, of course, there is that, but in the past ten years or so local programming has been joined by the pan-regional international players, such as CNN, Discovery and MTV.
The Latin American TV market is a strong one and the pan-regional networks have a small share of the cake. However, having localised much of their programming, they are involving more regional advertisers and devising more creative campaigns.
David Byles, the chief executive of WPP's Latin American operations, MindShare and Mediaedge:cia, estimates that total pan-regional pay-TV revenues are around $200 million. WPP clients such as Mattel and Ford have taken advantage of the pan-regional reach, but there are often local issues that make one single message across the region a little tricky.
"The way the market's gone is to regionalise by being more flexible and having feeds that are locally sensitive," Byles says. Most pan-regional networks, such as Discovery and MTV, now have separate feeds into different areas of Latin America, allowing more local programming and advertising. CNN has a 24-hour Spanish language channel across the region called CNN en Espanol, with a separate feed for Mexico.
And last year, the sports network ESPN, which already has pan-regional and Brazilian channels, launched ESPN+, which transmits in Spanish to Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and Bolivia.
The other challenge for the pan-regional networks has been to come up with creative campaigns to grab their clients' interest. With pay-TV penetration levels at around 15 per cent and unlikely to increase, Melisa Quinoy, the senior vice-president for ad sales for MTV Networks Latin America, stresses the importance of creative marketing: "Growth has to come from working differently with clients."
MTV and Discovery have both worked hard to create relevant advertising packages. CNN has a similar approach: it has recently negotiated sponsorship deals with the likes of Audi and UPS and the Spanish banking group Santander ran a campaign around CNN en Espanol's fifth anniversary including sponsored programming, online promotion and live events.
The markets vary hugely across the region, with Argentina, Mexico and Brazil being three of the strongest. Mexico is MTV's best market in the region. "I think for everybody it's strong because the economy is strong," Quinoy says.
The reality is that Mexico is unusually stable in a crazy part of the world. Turbulent political and economic infrastructures make the region more than a little unpredictable.
THREE OF LATIN AMERICA'S MAJOR PAN-REGIONAL TELEVISION NETWORKS
Discovery has been in the region since 1994 and has six channels airing across Latin America: Discovery, Discovery Kids, Animal Planet, People and Arts, Travel Channel and Discovery Health. It is in more than 13 million households in the region and, according to TGI, has a weekly reach of almost 34 million adults and more than 14 million business decision-makers.
Its diverse audience allows the channel to attract a broad range of advertisers from consumer brands such as Nokia to corporate players such as Allianz and HP.
The region performs well for the network. Monica Mather, Discovery's regional director for international advertising, says: "The region is very strong for us." She believes that, as with Asia, the channels offer a bit of escapism, "giving people the chance to be armchair travellers".
Like other international networks, the Latin American operation is based in Miami, Florida. Because there are four separate feeds, the network can air local programming adapted to sub-regional tastes. Mexico does particularly well for the network and, in Venezuela, Discovery rates as the number-one pan-regional channel.
Capitalising on this means winning over clients with integrated local ad campaigns. Earlier this year, Pioneer and Visa came on board to support the premier of a two-hour special on Brazil and Mexico. The package included on-air and online presence as well as brand profile at local live events and a tie-in with print advertising activity.
BBC World launched in the region in 1996 and has been gradually extending its distribution, focusing on metropolitan areas. Since July of last year, it has been available in every market and its audience is growing fast.
The channel reaches around 1.3 million Latin American viewers - a 54 per cent year-on-year growth in audience, according to the latest TGI Latina. Although it's far from a flag-waving level of penetration, when you look more closely the picture is rosier for advertisers. As BBC World's director of operations and strategy, Colin Lawrence, explains: "Fifty per cent of these come from the top 10 per cent socio-economic segment, making us more upscale than CNN International, for example." Lawrence believes that the channel has one social advantage over its North American rivals: "Our key point of difference is that we are European, not American. This provides cultural affinity for our news audience.
"Because of our top-quality audience, we are now able to attract a broad range of international advertisers such as Shell, Rolex and Skyteam." MTV
The MTV South American network launched in 1993, with Nickelodeon joining it three years later. The 24-hour MTV Spanish language programming is seen in 12 million households across 45 territories. Nickelodeon is seen in 64.6 million homes, via channels and programming blocks.
MTV is the highest-rated network among all general entertainment cable channels (excluding children's channels) and Nickelodeon is the fastest-growing cable and satellite network in the region.
The network aims to provide creative solutions for its clients. Coca-Cola's sponsorship of the Video Music Awards for Latin America included using the awards logo on-pack, joint promotions and MTV working closely with the ad agency on tie-in commercials and presence at local live events.
Unilever worked with MTV to promote its Holanda ice-cream brand in Mexico.
The brand's heart-shaped logo lent itself to a Mexican version of MTV's dating show Dismissed. A sponsorship deal saw brand presence at casting sessions, product placement and even a Dismissed-flavour ice-cream.