Argentina Exports Telenovelas to China and Beyond

Argentina  has long exported Malbec wine and grass-fed beef to the world over, but now it is becoming a leader in exporting Telenovela (soap opera) formats to Latin America, Europe, Israel, and now, China.

Telenovelas are big money, not just because they have great ratings but also because they generate merchandise sales and theater and music spin offs, especially for youth oriented content.

As reported in Variety, Buenos Aires-based Telefe is partnering with Shanghai Media Group to produce “Heartbeats,” about a group of Chinese kids who seek to achieve their dreams through art. “Heartbeats” will be set and shot in China, largely in Shanghai, with oversight by Telefe directors and producers.

Meanwhile, Shanghai-based Idea Asia Media recently optioned for local adaptation Telefe’s mistaken-identity comedy “Los exitosos Pells” (The Successful Pells). Watch the great intro below:

The first 40-episode season is in preproduction, and the second is being written. Telefe closed the deal this month after three years of talks with SMG.

It’s part of the firm’s move to increase sales to Asia after selling its original telenovelas and localized versions of those shows — including revenge drama “Montecristo,” corruption-laden “Resistire” (Forever Julia) and poor-meets-rich comedy “The Roldans” — widely in Europe, Latin America and the U.S.

With “Heartbeats,” Telefe went a slightly different route, crafting an original script for SMG, Michelle Wasserman, manager of international sales at Telefe Intl. tells Variety.

With its 1.3 billion population and growing middle class, “China has always had big potential but it was hard to reach,” Wasserman says.

More co-production deals are in the pipeline — SMG is interested in gamer “Justo a tiempo” (Just in Time) and two fiction formats.

With “Heartbeats,” Telefe will replicate the 360-degree business model it uses for its telenovelas in Argentina and elsewhere by spinning off CDs, DVDs, live theater and shows, among other things.

These spinoffs help drive sales of telenovelas outside Latin America and show that not only is Argentina a great place to film, but it is also a great place to find new formats.

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