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Navigating new trends in the global content business.

Raising the game for Spanish-language programming

For Rodrigo Mazón, chief content officer at streamer ViX, the boom in Spanish-language programming has raised the bar for writers, producers and directors.

Rodrigo Mazón

Nowadays it’s almost impossible to talk about the audiovisual industry without mentioning streaming. But in 2011, the model was still new and many viewed it with suspicion.

In September of that year, Netflix landed in Latin America, so it’s hard to find any streaming specialists from the region with more than 12 years’ experience.

However, TelevisaUnivisión’s streaming platform ViX achieved it. Rodrigo Mazón, originally from San Diego and of Mexican heritage, returned to the audiovisual industry in 2011, joining one of the world’s first streamers, Hulu.

His Latin American roots accompanied him during the four years that he was working in the platform’s content acquisitions team, where he pioneered Spanish-language content. “It was really the first time a streamer was putting Mexican soap operas and Spanish-language series on its platform,” remembers Mazón.

From there came the jump to Netflix in 2015, where half of his time was dedicated to the Spanish-speaking world and the other half to Hollywood and global content, in addition to having been part of the team that carried out the global launch of Netflix in the rest of the world.

Six years later the call came that would give him the greatest challenge of his professional career. “They called me from Univision, which was about to become TelevisaUnivision, to be part of the team that was going to launch a new streaming service,” says Mazón, referring to what would later become ViX.

“In the first year I oversaw the general management of the company. Let’s say I was in charge of building and launching the SVoD service. A year after we launched, they moved me to the position of chief content officer, which includes SVoD and AVoD; that is, what we call free ViX and premium ViX,” he adds, having spent the past 15 months shaping the platform and becoming a reference figure within the Spanish-language industry.

Led by executives such as Mazón and with the clear ambition of becoming the most important Spanish-language streaming service in the world, ViX has focused on investing in a wide variety of content, ranging from popular movies and series to documentaries, reality shows and sports.

Here he tells Content Americas Daily about his content strategy and plans for this year’s event.

Biographical series Gloria Trevi: Ellas Soy Yo

What type of content is ViX currently looking for?
Our ambition is to grow towards all Latin American countries with local stories. And our editorial line is quite broad: we want to offer all types of content that the entire population may like. Without a doubt, we focus largely on the genre of melodrama, because it is a universal and broad genre on a global level. But we also have in our pipeline and under evaluation for acquisition all genres, from comedy to horror to non-fiction, where we have found great success in documentaries and docuseries.

How is that search combined with the content that Televisa and Univision have generated for so many years?
Being TelevisaUnivision, we have the most important Spanish-language catalogue in terms of stories, soap operas, comedies, series and movies. The truth is that we have a great opportunity there that we have already begun to take advantage of, which is to find existing stories or IPs that we can remake, readapt or create spinoffs for possible ViX series or movies. We spent a lot of time maximizing and leveraging that great collection of IPs and obviously we also worked a lot with the best producers in the industry. All day long we are listening to pitches, evaluating projects, developing them together and eventually moving on to produce them. We are looking for ideas everywhere.

Will coproduction be an area of relevance for ViX as the platform continues to expand?
In the past 10 years, the growth and globalization of Spanish-language content has led to an incredible boom. And I consider this is just the beginning. We love our coproducer partners that we are working with. We have excellent relationships and obviously our idea is to share the business with them. We want to build these relationships so that we are the first door they knock on to bring their best ideas. At ViX, we have the great advantage of not requiring global rights. We become a very attractive option for people who want to coproduce with us in Spain, Brazil, Colombia and other parts of the world, such as Turkey or the rest of Europe.

Would you say that content in Spanish can now be global content?
Frankly, one of the biggest benefits that this boom we are all experiencing has brought is that it has added more people to the industry – more people to write, direct, act. That demand elevates the game and the quality for everyone. It is a large part of why we believe in ViX and TelevisaUnivision’s ambition to be the leader in that regard. And we trust that our content will compete globally with any other.

There has been a lot of talk from TelevisaUnivision and ViX about ‘hyperlocal’ content. What exactly is this?
Global platforms sometimes have the difficult challenge of deciding how global or how local the things they produce should be. But we, by being focused on our markets, can produce, for example, a northern Mexican comedy because we know we want to gain an audience there. Obviously, the content then has the potential to work in the rest of the country, and even in the rest of the region, but we are not afraid of that. On the contrary, we are looking for things that are very local in that sense, because we know that people want to see themselves reflected and heard. Comedy, in fact, is super local, and we are the best platform to tell those stories. We are not limited by a global vision, but we are truly serving the Spanish-speaking audiences and population.

La Casa de los Famosos was a huge success for Vix

After the success of La Casa de los Famosos, can we expect a stronger focus on the reality genre?
Obviously, La Casa de los Famosos was the success that we all know. We have seen that we have an audience that is very interested in that genre. But we also have the advantage of having our linear channels and finding synergies between the linear channels, free streaming and premium streaming, which creates power at a level that only we can realize. We have audiences everywhere.

How has TelevisaUnivision evolved since the creation of ViX?
ViX is a natural evolution in how we distribute our content. Deep down, as a company, we start from stories. We are a company that is and has been dedicated for decades to telling stories and bringing them to the public. In that sense, nothing changes. Streaming is just a mode of distribution.

Obviously, this mode of distribution has evolved the way in which stories are told or produced. For example, there are no longer 100-episode series on free-to-air television like before; soap operas have become shorter and series with multiple seasons have appeared. But that is nothing more than a format change.

The beauty of this combination of modes of distribution is that it allows us as a company to find the best stories and then determine whether we tell them through a soap opera on our linear channel or through a short series on ViX. Or even through both, as was the case with La Casa de los Famosos or the biographical series Gloria Trevi: Ellas Soy Yo, where we released the episodes first on ViX and then aired in parallel on the channel. This gives us more options and ways to bring stories to people. At our core, we are dedicated to the pursuit of great ideas and stories.