Home Entertainment Max Goes Glocal in Latin America, Launches Feb. 27 (EXCLUSIVE)

Max Goes Glocal in Latin America, Launches Feb. 27 (EXCLUSIVE)

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In an exclusive one-on-one interview with Variety, Fernando Medin, president and managing director of Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) Latin America and U.S. Hispanic, drilled down on the company’s programming and growth strategy for the region where it launches its rebranded streaming platform, Max, on Feb. 27. This will be WBD’s first major international roll-out of Max after the U.S.

“To truly reach all segments of the population with a product like ours, it’s essential to not only offer our international content but also provide something that resonates with people, something relevant to their lives. Hence, we’ve been diligently curating a lineup of local content,” said Medin.

Leading the Max Latin American pack are shows based on internationally renowned IP, led by a Salma Hayek-executive produced series based on Laura Esquivel’s bestseller “Like Water for Chocolate” (“Como agua para chocolate”), adapted by director Alfonso Arau into a movie that became one of the highest grossing Spanish-language box office hits worldwide.

Then there’s the series spin-off of Fernando Meirelles’s seminal film, “City of God” (“Cidade de Deus”) that takes place 20 years after the events of the Brazilian pic based on Paulo Lins’ novel. Meirelles is also one of the producers of the show.

On an even more local level is Mexican production “Sin querer queriendo,” the first bio-series inspired by the life of Roberto Gómez Bolaños, better known as Chespirito, one of the most beloved comedians of all time in Mexico.

Argentine spin-off show “Margarita” is expected to appeal to fans of the hit series “Floricienta” by Cris Morena, a leading youth content creator.

“We will have 37,000 hours of content, and we will cover virtually all programming genres: series, movies, but also novelas, documentaries, lifestyle, reality shows, live shows, sports and that, when combined with the strength of our brands, allows us to have another advantage in navigability and content selection,” he added, noting that the platform will be “faster, more robust, more customizable, more intuitive and feature greater discoverability.”

“In the linear world, we are the largest provider of children’s content with two highly positioned brands: Discovery Kids and Cartoon Network. All of this led us to plan a customization that allows us to create parental controls and a kids profile where they will find appropriate content,” he pointed out.

Locally made kids programs include the Mexican stop motion animation film “Frankelda and the Book of Spooks,” Lucha Libre hero “Rey Misterio” and from Argentina, “Mini Beat Power Rockers, a motley band of baby musicians.

“Adult Swim,” original animation content for adults, taps a loyal fan base and will include homegrown content, beginning with Brazil’s popular “Sociedade da virtude.”

Local telenovelas such as Brazil’s “Beleza Fatal” and “Dona Beja” complement Max’s output deals with Turkish telenovela content creators.

Live sports events are also expected to draw more viewers including the UEFA Champions League for Mexico and Brazil alone, the region’s largest markets, as well as Mexican Lucha Libre AAA, available only in Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina, and the Campeonato Paulistão soccer tourneys, solely for Brazil.

Max will be further expanding its sports offering to additional markets in the future, Medin noted.

There are some hurdles ahead, however.

“We have the challenges that every streamer faces: attracting subscribers and keeping them within the base. In Latin America, we have additional challenges compared to those experienced worldwide. First, very low banking access and even lower credit card penetration, combined with very persistent, almost omnipresent piracy,” said Medin, who expects Max to reach consumers through both traditional pay-TV distributors and modern providers offering bundles.

“This setup allows payments without needing a credit card or bank account, similar to paying for broadband or data packages with carriers or providers. Collaborating with our distributors, a key aspect of our strategy, has been ongoing for years,” he pointed out.

“Remember, every HBO Linear subscriber can log on to Max. And this gives distributors a very significant incentive to offer both worlds, not just one. It allows them to also sustain their subscriber base with a new argument, which automatically turns us into an ally, right? It allows us to access marketing campaigns and to strengthen both products at the same time. So, while this is a challenge, it is also an advantage that we have,” he added.

Furthermore, Max Latin America will present three subscription plans, featuring both monthly and discounted annual payment alternatives.

Internet penetration, a vital component in expanding the SVOD service, is fortunately robust in the region. According to the Atlántico’s Latin America Digital Transformation Report published last year, regional internet penetration jumped from 42% to 78% in a decade, although internet services are still too costly for the lower income households.

Broadband internet penetration, even more crucial, stands at 57% for the entire region, with Brazil at 62% and Mexico, Argentina at 73% and Chile 74%, according to a Dataxis 3rd Q 2023 report.

Said Medin: “I believe that, in the last four years, Latin America has undergone a technological leapfrog. Obviously, there are countries that are still lagging but when we look back at even five or six years ago, streaming solutions were very limited. I’m not saying it’s still not a niche in some places, but in big cities, I no longer see it as a limiting factor.”