Producer of “Queen of the South,” starring Kate del Castillo, and “Black Widow,” CEO and partner of Colombia’s RTI Prods. a former Telemundo Studios president, then co-founder in 2016 of W Studios with Univision, Televisa Studios president Patricio Wills’ C.V. remains unique in Spanish-language TV.
Joining Televisa in March 2018, where he launched Televisa Studios, Wills’ latest challenge, however, has maybe been the biggest of his career: To get Televisa’s scripted mojo back, primarily via a multi-series franchise, Fábrica de Sueños, which recasts many of Televisa’s biggest telenovela classics as updated 25-episode limited series. The following Q & A, turning on the Fabrica de Sueños, was made as Mipcom wound down last month. At MipCancun, Wills addressed the same subject in a plenary session with Produ’s editor-in-chief Richard Izarra.
Fábrica de Sueños maintains a delicate balance between respect for Televisa’s legacy brand and a re-set of formats – dramas’ length, production levels and distribution – in line with the new TV age.
“We need to maintain Televisa’s traditional audiences and formats because that’s what audiences consume, “ Wills said at MipCancun. “But we need to adapt audiences, to make new, different products for new audiences. If not we’ll be living off the present , but with a public which is ever younger and will look for alternatives elsewhere.” Wills’ answer to this quandary, Fabrica de Sueños, has seen two series bow, “The Usurper” and “Cradle of Wolves.” “The Usurper” proved a ratings leader on Televisa, opening with 3.9 million viewers and beating competition in the 9:30 pm time slot by 149.42%, per Nielsen Ibope Mexico. Starring Paz Vega, “Cradle of Wolves,” also claimed the top spot on Televisa with 5.8 million viewers, per Nielsen Ibope Mexico, smashing its competition in the 9:30 pm time slot by 81%. It bowed out with 3.1 million.
At U.S. Hispanic network Univision, “The Usurper” averaged 1.6 million total viewers, making it the No. 1 Spanish-language network on weeknights from 9 pm to 10 p.m.
Wills used MipCancun to confirm via a promo teaser 2020’s next three Fábrica de Sueños titles: “Rubi,” which has shot mostly in Spain; “El Privilegio es Amar,” produced once more by Carla Estrada and to shoot in Morocco; and “El Maleficio,” a remake of the 1983 supernatural melodrama.
Following, the original Q & A with Variety last month:
What’s the state of Fabrica de Sueños?
We began to work on it a little over a year ago. It hasn’t been easy because it’s been a case of taking the classic stories of Televisa, reducing them, and finding money to produce them at a higher level than you’ll find in normal TV. We researched in Mexico and the U.S.into the best remembered telenovelas, those which viewers wanted remade and we’re making those titles. Their upbeat reception makes us very happy indeed because with them we’re creating a franchise channeling the essence of Televisa. We’ll continue to make series in the franchise until they no longer work.
Can you give an update on individual titles?
We’ve made two series – “The Usurper” and “Cradle of Wolves.” We finished shooting “Rubi” mid-October in Madrid. We’re handling the titles very carefully. It’s a content mix which serves Televisa, where we put the series on our flagship channel, also serves Univision, which gets windows in U.S. distribution, and also Amazon, where you can binge the 25 episodes. It’s like a new way of making TV – which is our current central project.
That can also be said of “El ultimo dragón,” released by Netflix.
Yes. What we’re doing is bringing Televisa’s way of making TV into line with practices at the OTT platforms. We have to work with them. If you missed a few episodes of “The Usurper” on Televisa’s Canal de las Estrellas, you can catch them on Amazon. It’s an update overhaul of our system with modern, contemporary contents. We’re moving the dial forward, which is our major mission.
Given the good reception for the first two titles, are you thinking of making the series bigger or extending the Fabrica?
Yes. The idea isn’t to make 100-episode series instead of 25, but rather make many more 25-hour series, maybe going up to 30, have some latitude, but keep the format. And make more titles a year, not two but three or four. We’re producing six already, which is pretty much the limit.
So you’ll restrict the number each year to create a sense of expectation in audiences who know that every so many months there’ll be a new title, for the next three-to-four years…..
Exactly. So that the audience knows there’s a certain limit, that they’ll start in such a period. Luckily we have a mine of titles at Televisa. 50 or 60 iconic telenovelas. It’s a franchise we have to work carefully.. If we do too many it ceases to be special, too few and the audience forgets.
The question I asked you at MipCancun last year was whether one of the challenges for the remakes is that the position of women has changed radically in the last few years….
That’s gone pretty well for us, better in one of the titles than the other. The series have had a large female audiences. What’s interesting, however, is that they’re being viewed not just by traditional Canal de las Estrellas audiences but also by a younger public. The core of our Estrellas audience is women 35-50/55, but in terms of demographies we have a little of everything. We’d like to keep that – for our audience to grow and be able to access the shows on Estrellas or afterwards.
Fabrica de Sueños looks like a experiment, also conducted by Ramon Campos and Bambu in Spain or Brazil’s Prodigio with Netflix show “Coisa Mais Linda,” which consists in a reimagining of romantic melodrama in a modern society.
That’s what we’re attempting. When all is said and done, “The Usurper” and “Cradle of Wolves” are telenovelas, which is a clearly defined Latin American genre. We want to maintain, protect and stress how it’s the most important and original genre in Latin America. “The Usurper” is more melodrama , “Cuna de Lobos” more thriller, but both are growing complementary audiences.
I’m not sure whether you were at the Mipcom session where Amazon Studios’ James Farrell and Brown transformed their keynote address into a “help wanted” ad for scripted creative executives in Italy and Spain, flashing their own email addresses on the screen. Mexico obviously has some extraordinarily good screenwriters such as Gabriel Ripstein with Televisa-Amazon series “A Strange Enemy.” But has training screenwriters for far shorter series proved a challenge?
On both “The Usurper” and “Cradle of Wolves,” we’ve made a mix: Screenwriters who are melodrama, telenovelas specialists whom we’ve invited to see the series from a different angle, and teams of alternative writers who have been working other formats.But we’ve never wanted to loose the taste and set-ups of the telenovela. All our teams have professional telenovela writers.
“Rubi,” for example, was written by Venezuela’s Otto Padrón, a telenovela expert. We just had to tell him we’re going to do something different. You can’t have the reiteration of episodes that tell the viewers seven times what’s happened because Fábrica de Sueños is far more direct in is story telling.
Several things look to have changed with Fábrica de Sueños. One’s the production values. You’re making premium TV for free-to-air. Second is the pace of narration. A third the treatment of female characters….
Another is the acting which is far more naturalistic, not the traditional style of telenovelas which had its own value. Also the direction’s less shot, counter-shot. We shot half the minutes, or far less [a day] than traditional telenovelas achieved. The series are a bit more cinema.
Given the success of the first two series, are you talking with other players or is the Fábrica de Sueños an Amazon exclusive?
We’ve made the first two series with Amazon with the understanding that the two of us will continue as partners while we’re happy. So far the partnership has gone very well. Amazon’s helped us with money which you see on the screen.
Will you continue to make series like “Un Extraño Enemigo”
We’re looking at that with Amazon. We’re prioritizing projects that work well on our free-to-air channels, el Canal de las Estrellas and Univision, and of course Amazon and the world. The core business of Televisa is its channels, Univision and the export business. We’re hugely proud of just how good “A Strange Enemy” is. We’re interested in this kind of series but as work for hire than as one of our own original series.
There seems to be a general trend among TV operators, once they’ve produced high-quality series, to move more towards the mainstream with bigger more open series.
Yes, series which can play free to air and the platforms. This is what we’re investing in now. This is Fabrica de Sueños, and “El Ultimo Dragón.”