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Keshet International adding to the MX

Elegios-final-HDBIn December, Keshet International’s Asia chief, Gary Pudney, told TBI about the distributor’s plans for new offices and staff in the region. As NATPE Miami starts, the company’s Latin America boss, Kelly Wright, picks up the story, telling Stewart Clarke about plans for a Mexican production unit and an expanded local sales team.

Keshet International has launched a new production hub, Keshet MX, this month as a signal of intent in Latin America.

Alon-Struzman-CEO-Keshet-International“KI already has a great track record in the region with the success of Rising Star and Boom, so it’s only natural to ramp up our business and expand into production in the vibrant Mexican marketplace,” says Alon Shtruzman (left), CEO of Keshet International. “It boasts a great talent pool with whom we’re looking to develop, produce, source and export local IP.”

As the international arm of Israel’s Keshet Media Group, the producer and distributor will soon debut the first fruits from its deals with powerhouse broadcasters Televisa, Telemundo and Telefe, as it sets its sights on expanding its Lat Am business.

Keshet MX, however, is the story of the moment. “We’re establishing a production company in Mexico City,” says KI head of Latin America Kelly Wright (right). “The vertically integrated groups, the Televisas and Globos, have studios, and we want ours to work on production, coproduction and work for hire.”

Why Mexico? “Mexico and Argentina are the northern and southern regional hubs for the region, and Mexico is where the likes of Discovery and Sony set up pan-regional productions, and it is also a hub for the US Hispanic Kelly Wrightmarket,” Wright says. “We also see the potential for hybrid productions in different languages, which are also cost effective given the economic situation.”

Frank Scheuermann will be the fulcrum of the expansion. He joined KI in April 2016 as regional head of development and production, joining from Teleset, the Colombian prodco that is part of Sony Pictures Television.He added regional formats expertise to the mix with local versions of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Got Talent and The X Factor among his credits.

“We already have Frank in place, and are now working to set up the team,” Wright says. “We will hire for business development and business affairs. We want a small dedicated team covering development, distribution and business affairs, and production.”

Keshet MX will not, however, just be focused on unscripted, with drama part of the plan. “We are sourcing content and can deficit finance and distribute, or coproduce,” Wright says.

Keshet sold the Prisoners of War scripted format to Televisa in 2014 and a new deal with Mexico’s largest media firm, and the largest producer of Spanish-language content in the world, was agreed at last year’s NATPE.

The pair signed off on a three-year, four-project deal for scripted formats from KI. First up is Loaded, the comedy drama about a group of young friends who get rich after their video game becomes a huge hit. It has been remade in Mexico by Televisa as Realidad Aumentada (Augmented Reality), and will go out on its Blim on-demand platform, and will also broadcast on US Hispanic net Univision.

The other big US Hispanic broadcaster, Telemundo, is also working with KI. In the middle of 2016 the pair revealed they would work up a new Spanish-language drama originals, with the US net’s Telemundo Studios division producing. The project has been greenlit and will be one of Telemundo’s ‘super series’, which are shorter and edgier than the net’s traditional soapy novellas. Unlike, however, most of Telemundo’s 10pm super series, the new show will not be about drug dealers, moving on from the narco genre and into thriller territory, says Wright. Spanish-language drama veteran Perla Farias, senior VP, scripted development for Telemundo Studios, will oversee the project for the NBCU-owned net.

Boom-Key-ImageIn unscripted, KI shopped its Boom gameshow (above) further into the region in 2016, with Brazilian free TV net SBT ordering a 13x30mins local version. This will play as part of the long running Programa Silvio Santos variety show.

Another broadcaster in the region to take Boom is Telefe, the Argentinian broadcaster that also runs KI staple, Rising Star (Elegidos locally, pictured top). The pair have a co-development deal for entertainment shows, and are aiming to work up and co-finance the creation of two pilots a year. Telefe will launch the shows and KI shop the formats internationally.

A new format, Heart Beats will be the first to result from the deal. It will incorporate several programming elements beloved of viewers in the region as a glamourous reality dating format with musical performances. Meanwhile, interactive shortform gameshow and multiplatform game Touch has also gone to Caracol in Colombia in partnership with Grupo Éxito, the region’s largest retailer.

Having revealed its Asia expansion to TBI in December, the Lat Am plans should be considered in the wider context of KI, still only five years old, but established as significant player in the international production and distribution scene. The sense is that there is more to come this year.

“Keshet MX is the next step in KI’s global strategy to have a hub on every continent worldwide,” says Shtruzman. “The business has grown significantly in 2016, in terms of deal-making, new divisions and key strategic hires in all regions, and 2017 will be another pivotal year for the KI network.”