Ana Langenberg, the senior VP of format sales and production at NBCUniversal (NBCU) International Studios, tells TV Formats about the importance of the Latin American and U.S. Hispanic markets.
With nearly 20 years in the industry, Langenberg joined NBCU International Studios from Endemol Shine Group last September as the senior VP of format sales and production. In this role, she oversees global sales and production of all of NBCU’s formats created within the production and broadcast divisions of NBCUniversal, as well as select third-party formats. NBCU International Studios’ umbrella includes production outfits Matchbox Pictures in Australia, as well as Monkey and Carnival Films in the U.K. which, according to Langenberg, “are very important for us as content creators as well as producers for adaptations of our international formats.”
TV FORMATS: Tell us about joining NBCU and your role at the company.
LANGENBERG: I joined NBCU last September. It’s been a fascinating [few] months. It’s a huge company, with so many different lines of business. I work for NBCUniversal International Studios, which is the division that looks after production outside of the U.S and format distribution. I’m based in London, and I head the format production and distribution department. We have a few production companies that are part of our division, like Matchbox Pictures in Australia and Monkey in the U.K. We also own Carnival Films, which produced Downton Abbey.
TV FORMATS: How do you work with the various production companies under the NBCU umbrella?
LANGENBERG: We have a very close relationship with them. We keep each other up to date on what’s happening in the world of formats, about what is selling, what’s trending. We have development calls and meetings with them on a regular basis to see what is in their creative pipeline that we can then roll out internationally. They are very important for us as content creators as well as producers for adaptations of our international formats.
TV FORMATS: Are you working with digital platforms as well?
LANGENBERG: We have different ways to go about it. For example, Saturday Night Live is one of our biggest brands and [it is produced in] several territories, including in China for Youku, which is a digital platform, and in Poland for Showmax, which is also an SVOD. Those are very exciting deals for us.
For scripted formats and entertainment, we have had meetings with SVODs and are beginning to explore the possibilities. We are working to understand what they are looking for in terms of locally produced content. Scripted is an obvious one; we know that they buy that. But when it comes to non-scripted, it’s about trying to find the right content that works for their needs. We are still in the early days of talking to each other, but we have already identified some of the types of shows that they are looking for.
TV FORMATS: Tell us about some of the scripted formats in the catalog.
LANGENBERG: Over the years we have done shows like House, which is airing [with a local version] in Russia. We have done licenses for Parenthood in Italy and Monk in Turkey. Law & Order was adapted in the U.K. a few years ago. Suits is in preproduction for a Korean version and is in discussion in a few other territories. We have a very strong scripted catalog; these are brands that are very well known.
TV FORMATS: What are some of the highlights on the unscripted entertainment side?
LANGENBERG: For Latin America, there are a few shows that feel particularly strong for the region. One of them is Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge, which is a physical competition show from NBC in the U.S. Hollywood Game Night is another strong format that we think could do really well in a few territories in Latin America because it includes fun games with celebrities in studio and has traveled to 17 territories internationally.
We have had great global success with selling The Real Housewives, which has several series in the franchise in the U.S., the U.K., Australia and Hungary. We have a few new ones coming out. We are doing a version in Thailand, The Real Housewives of Bangkok. We are doing one in South Africa. It’s a format that travels very well.
Top Chef is a huge success in over 20 countries, one of which is in the Middle East, where it’s one of the flagship shows on MBC1. We do it in several other territories as well. In France, for example, Top Chef is now in season nine and continues to do extremely well.
TV FORMATS: Where do you see business opportunities ahead?
LANGENBERG: SVODs are the biggest area of exploration. Also, in order to compete with the SVODs, linear broadcasters are focusing more on producing local content and buying less American content. Broadcasters are increasingly looking for locally produced shows and adapting formats, so that’s an opportunity for us.
TV FORMATS: How important is Latin America to your overall format focus?
LANGENBERG: Latin America has always been a very exciting market that adapts television formats and we are well-equipped to continue our growth. We have done several format deals [in the region] already. For example, we just closed our first deal with Discovery en Español (for U.S. Hispanic and LatAm) for Monkey’s format The Question Jury. We feel that there is still a lot of work that we can do here within the individual territories but also with pan-regional cable and now with SVOD platforms as well.
TV FORMATS: What about the U.S. Hispanic market?
LANGENBERG: We see great potential in the U.S. Hispanic market both for our scripted and unscripted formats. It’s a matter of finding the right title that can coexist with the English-language content that we produce and broadcast in the U.S.—and this content may come from Canada, Australia or elsewhere. It’s an exciting market for us.
TV FORMATS: Is working with Telemundo a priority?
LANGENBERG: Telemundo is part of the group; they are a sister company. We work closely together, and we see great opportunities between the two companies.
TV FORMATS: What have been some successful adaptations of NBCU formats in either LatAm or the U.S. Hispanic market?
LANGENBERG: Resonant TV has optioned for LatAm and U.S. Hispanic Hotel Babylon, which is a U.K. scripted format by Carnival Films, and Pomodoro Stories has optioned Parenthood, which is an NBC series that was adapted very successfully in Italy for Rai. Both of these properties are great dramas and very suitable for Latino audiences. The Italian version of Parenthood (Tutto Può Succedere) is very successful.