On a recent weekend, box office results show that the #1 movie at cinemas in Brazil was “Just Go with It,” a Hollywood comedy starring Adam Sandler. In Mexico, the most popular movie at the box office was “Gnomeo and Juliet,” a Hollywood animated film that does the inconceivable: mixes Shakespeare with little plaster yard gnomes.
In Colombia, it was “Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son,” another Hollywood comedy. In all of Latin America, there was only one country where the top movie was not an American production, and that was Argentina.
Moviegoers there went to see a homegrown film, “Un Cuento Chino,” starring the popular Argentine actor Ricardo Darin.
A recent Ovum report says that “Argentina has been challenged in terms of affinity with American culture,” and this might be evidence of that. (On the other hand, #2 at the box office there was the very American “Mars Needs Moms.”) But what about on the smaller screen, which reaches far more people? TV viewership is huge in Latin America, and higher than average in Brazil, according to a Nielsen study. (That applies to the three other BRIC countries as well. Is there a connection between TV watching and ascension as an offshore destination?) Popular American shows are hits in Latin America. “Two and a Half Men,” “Family Guy,” and “Ultimate Fighter” are all part of the common thread running through the Nearshore region.
But American content does not rule the TV screens of South and Central America. People there still prefer their local options. Mexico and Brazil especially produce scads of TV shows, and they dominate there. Brazil’s TV Globo, for example, is one of the largest broadcasters in the world, and according to the Guinness Book of Records is the biggest producer of soap operas. Brazilians watch those shows much more than they watch American programs.
One of those shows in 2005, a soap called “America,” reflects the connection between the two nations. “It´s a story about Latin immigrants that have a dream of moving to the US and pursuing the American dream,” the TV Globo description says. (Watch the promo clip here.)
According to TV historian Joseph Straubhaar, “The dominant characteristic of Brazilian television still seems to be that of a strong national system with a distinct set of genres very popular with its own audience and in export.” Similarly, telenovelas produced by Mexican studios are the most popular shows on the airwaves there.
Coincidentally or not, these two countries with established TV networks and content-production systems also have strong technology sectors. Just as they don’t have to rely on American software companies, Brazil and Mexico don’t have to rely on NBC or HBO or ESPN. Even certain imports get localized. There’s “Latin American Idol,” for example, and Brazil has its own version of the reality show “Big Brother.”
What’s important from a Nearshore outsourcing perspective—and why we’re talking about entertainment—is that TV shows and movies provide a common ground
American cultural exports continue to be consumed in Latin America—inexplicably, it’s where Justin Bieber is the most popular in all the world—but the situation is changing. Just as U.S. companies are becoming more open to importing software code, Americans have become more receptive to Latin cultural imports. “Ugly Betty,” based on a hit show in Mexico, was popular in American homes. Salma Hayek is a celebrity in the U.S. So is Shakira, born and raised in Colombia. And the actress Morena Baccarin, from Rio de Janeiro, stars in the TV show “The Mentalist” and also played a major role in two other series, “V” and “Firefly.” (Okay, so Americans have a preference for gorgeous.)
What’s important from a Nearshore outsourcing perspective—and why we’re talking about entertainment—is that TV shows and movies provide a common ground. (American baseball often does the same thing. If you meet someone from Nicaragua, for example, there’s a good chance they are a Pittsburgh Pirates fan because they admire the late, great Roberto Clemente.) This shared experience can help foster a connection between service providers in Latin America and their partners in the States.
It will be interesting to see if the entertainment stream becomes as two-way as the flow of work and money between Latin American and North American businesses. As Brazil becomes more of an economic powerhouse, and Brazilian companies like Stefanini invest in U.S.-based companies, Americans should get a chance to learn more about Brazilian culture.
Let’s hope so. Cultural affinity is a good thing between collaborators. I remember one time working with a team in Mexico City and uttering “D’oh!” after doing something stupid. My Mexican colleagues knew exactly where that expression came from, and they all chuckled at the thought of Homer Simpson (or maybe they just thought Homer and I were on the same intelligence level). Granted, this is a small thing, but any shared experience is likely to help boost the bond between provider and client.
Learning about Americans through Hollywood exports might not be the best thing for the image of Americans, however. When a software development team in São Paulo is on a conference call with their client in the U.S., do they imagine they’re talking to a guy who looks and acts like Adam Sandler or who dresses in drag as a large black woman (like Martin Lawrence in “Big Mommas”), and do they think we all have a thing for yard gnomes