At its core, television has always been about entertainment and it’s a media company’s job to give consumers what they want. Whether that takes shape in the form of guilty pleasures or educational programming is a matter of viewer preference, but how do media companies ensure that their global brand’s content is localized in each market so that it satisfies regional tastes for said guilty pleasures and educational programming? This is the never-ending goal for FOX International Channels Latin America, which operates channels, production, and online businesses in Latin America under brands such as FOX, FX, Fox News, and National Geographic Channel, enabling wildly popular shows like The Walking Dead, Dexter, and Modern Family to cross the cultural divide.
This is not, however, as easy as simply dubbing or subtitling American programming and unleashing it on the masses—and this is where Ana Siegel comes in. Siegel has been with FOX International Channels for nine years and as senior vice president and deputy general counsel she oversees a team of 18 that handles all of the company’s legal needs in Latin America, including distribution agreements, acquisitions, coproduction deals, marketing regulations, and government/embassy relations. Essentially, she tends to the endlessly complex legal details that make the simple airing of American programming even possible in Latin America.
Siegel comes face-to-face with many challenges in Latin America, including an increasingly regulated marketplace; legally mandated discriminatory treatment against foreign programmers, and signal piracy, which is the reception of pay TV signals without authorization from the original broadcaster.
“We are collaborating with other international programmers on more efficient means of combating piracy,” Siegel says. “Another big challenge is the increase in protectionist legislation coming out of some countries. These legislations have resulted in reduced advertising inventories as well as channel quotas and content quotas. As a legal department, we work and coordinate with industry experts and counterparts in communicating our message on the applicable legislation and seeking support when matters could potentially involve international trade violations.”
Gonzalo Fiure, FOX International Channels’ senior VP of programming and production for Latin America, faces an entirely different set of challenges. According to Fiure, Latin America is comprised of many regional audiences, all of which have their own “peculiarities.”
“Even if we are all considered ‘Latin,’ consumer behaviors vary from market to market,” Fiure says. “Brazilian consumers may look for different things compared to Mexican consumers or Chileans and all of them are different from Argentinians, but they are all eager and looking for innovative and quality content. The main challenge is to offer the same compelling content that engages audiences in almost 20 different countries.”
Siegel says that the key advantage FOX has is that fact that unlike Asia and Europe, all countries in the region—with the exception of Brazil—are Spanish speaking. “This makes it easier and more cost effective to transmit our programming and marketing message,” Siegel says.
Latin American audiences have always been looking for high-quality and innovative content, but what viewers want is quickly changing and that means Fox has had to evolve with its audience.
“The main change we notice nowadays is that Latin audiences expect the same outstanding entertainment experience not only coming from original productions in English, but also in Spanish and Portuguese,” Fiure says. “We are confident that we will continue to evolve and grow because our efforts are focused on fulfilling the consumer needs by offering smart and innovative programs that entertain and educate audiences across all demographics and on all platforms.”