New models still in transformation
Caldwell (2004) points out that major American television networks learned from mistakes when they ignored the arrival of cable television. The loss of audience and exclusivity, according to the author, made North American networks strategically invest in research of the possibilities of the internet and nonlinear programming. As Scolari (2009) observes, media convergence, besides being a cultural and technological economic phenomenon, admits epistemological conjunction. Thus, the big television networks learn and adapt to the new paradigm. Even though the audience rates of open television in Brazil are impressive, between 2007 and 2014, according to the Brazilian Audiovisual Agency (Ancine), open television went from a 63.07% share in the audiovisual market to 41.5% (Oca Ancine, 2016).
Large communication groups in Brazil that have dominated broadcasting channels now invest in format research, new transmission and broadcasting technologies, differentiated content and new forms of relationship with the public. Besides, they look for other business models that enable gains across multiple screens and platforms.
In recent years, all major TV networks in the world have launched digital platforms that offer OTT content. When networks initiate their digital platforms, they also adjust their strategy to protect their business model, which depends on advertising and attracting advertisers to more than one display window. Not so long ago, cable and satellite television operators were significant threats to the audience of open television, before the cord-cutting phenomenon. These businesses also begin to seek subscribers for their stand-alone digital platforms and already have viewers used to a business model that mixes subscription and advertising. The frontier between native companies of the digital age and television stations tends to get closer when it comes to searching for subscribers, video consumption and advertising.
TV Globo’s digital video platform, Globoplay, was launched on 3 November 2015, along with “chapter zero” of Totalmente Demais/Total Dreamer (TV Globo, 2015). Chapter zero was a prologue to the first chapter aired on open television and had approximately 800,000 views at its launch. Ana Bueno, internet director for entertainment at TV Globo, was the one who suggested the initiative that was embraced by authors, actors and crew. Despite being a product linked to a large commercial company, the team’s choice to participate or not in the “chapter zero” was personal. There was no practice model or contractual requirement for the creative team’s participation in the extended contents of the telenovela at the time. Despite the success and the positive media response, chapter zero ended up working as a promotional piece. There was concern about not disturbing the end of the other telenovela still on the air, I Love Paraisopolis (2015). Therefore, chapter zero aired only after the last chapter of the previous telenovela, first on the internet and then during the weekend before the first chapter on Monday.
Currently, the actors and crew of a telenovela produce backstage coverage for the social networks of TV Globo and the website. The requirement not to show anything behind the scenes was removed in 2017. There is no monetization of this material, but what was a practice of actors and staff inhibited by the station became, in a short time, promotional material. Most of the chief shows and broadcasters in Brazil already have fan pages and promotional videos on YouTube and Facebook, and profiles on Twitter, Instagram and other social networks. The public interacts with these profiles and forums, participates and, mainly, shares their opinions and content production. It is necessary, however, to observe a difference between registering what is happening in the studio and creating and producing a unique transmedia narrative. But, despite all the ongoing experiences in television, such as transmedia content, spin-offs and productions on digital platforms, large corporations will focus on initiatives that are financially profitable or effectively promote valuable content.
To date, there are four major known models of monetization of audiovisual products in any media, platform or screen: publicity, in its various forms; syndication, or selling the work to other platforms and distribution/ display companies; the licensing of products which are part of the narrative universe; and direct sale of the product to the consumer, either by admission, subscription of a content menu or on-demand. I reckon that a fifth model of monetization associated with audiovisual content in digital platforms has been growing recently: content elaborated to attract users for the construction and possibly the subsequent sale of a database.
Licensing merchandise is a strategy that many television series with annual seasons already pursue. In Brazil, it is not new. The children’s cable channel Gloob, part of Grupo Globo, for example, already offers several products linked to their long-lasting series. One of the difficulties of exploring the licensing of telenovela products is precisely its format. The merchandise exploitation window has to match the exhibition, which averages five to six months in length. Then, all the station’s efforts will go into the promotion of the next telenovela.
Syndication, one of the examples of monetization of videos, is not a novelty for networks either, much less for Brazilian telenovelas to be exported worldwide. However, many broadcasters sold content to digital OTTs, such as Netflix, without predicting that they would be competing directly with their future digital platforms, dividing the audience. Also, as the convergence of screens and media becomes a reality, it is necessary to protect territory in every media. Totalmente Demais/Total Dreamer has been licensed to over 100 countries, including the United States, India, Israel, the Middle East, Germany, Georgia, Uruguay, Mexico and Chile both for open and cable television stations. The subscription business model must protect the territories of these sales.
Netflix has produced original content in more than 17 countries, including Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom and Brazil. Catherine Johnson (2019), studying the effect of global digital platforms such as Netflix and Amazon, notes that there is a dimension of horizontalization of content. In the search for transactional works that appeal in more than one country, these contents effectively lose the cultural singularity of the territory. However, diverse content offer is only one dimension of the entrance of transnational digital native companies in Brazil. By October 2020, the activities of Netflix and other OTT video digital platforms had not yet been regulated in the country. Silva (2018) remarks that the challenges for VoD regulation in Brazil are to observe existing tax laws, ensure isonomic treatment concerning other audiovisual services and regulate extra-territorial offers and content sharing platforms. However, new practices of spectator- ship and new business models advance faster than governments.
Globo Group uses various strategies to attract subscribers to Globoplay as a new form of monetization for Brazilian content produced by the company. The series JustiqatJustice, for example, was exhibited on the television station on 22 August 2016. However, subscribers of the digital platform could see the first chapters online before they aired on open television. In September 2016, the series Super Max had all of its chapters, except the last one, available online to subscribers before being exhibited on TV Globo. This strategy becomes apparent with series such as Carceireiros/Jailers, which won the Grand Jury Award at MipDrama Screenings in Cannes in 2017. Globoplay offered the whole series for its subscribers even before having a premiere date on open television. American broadcast network NBC also had a similar experience with the series Aquarius in May 2015. The company made all episodes available on various digital platforms as soon as the first one aired on NBC, anticipating the practice of binge-watching.
One of the chief characteristics of the telenovela is that it is to be written and produced while being exhibited so that the authors and producers may tune the narrative according to dialogue with the audience. According to Eneida Nogueira, director of research at TV Globo until 2017, the public uses social networks to comment while watching the telenovela in linear programming. The audience values this practice. If all chapters are produced and made available in advance, part of what makes the telenovela such a popular product can be lost. Nevertheless, Globoplay also tested making chapters of the 6:30pm telenovelas available one day in advance for subscribers with success, maintaining audience rates on television.
From a consumption point of view, the popularity that telenovelas still have in Brazil and worldwide is unquestionable. It is already known that the advertising model, with blocks of content and advertising, merchandising and product placement within the work, is not unshakable, especially with the advertising exodus to digital platforms - not necessarily to those linked to broadcast television. As the mediatic ecosystem evolves and business models converge, the profits from the subscription of Globo Group’s digital platform Globoplay may or may not pay for these productions in the future. This depends on how this content slides to new platforms and adapts to different practices in spectatorship. Up until today, it is advertising that pays for the 150 chapters of a telenovela. It remains to be seen whether the telenovela will lose its value as a social bond if it ceases to have a “live” quality and to be an open work. Globo Group has announced for
2021 the production of a sequel for the telenovela Verdades Secretas/Hid- den Truths (2015) by Walcyr Carrasco, winner of the International Emmy for Best Telenovela in 2016. The original show had 64 chapters and was exhibited in the 11pm time slot, which has shorter telenovelas and content ratings that permit erotic and violent scenes. The plot of the original telenovela mainly features the story of Angel, played by Camila Queiroz, who becomes a prostitute lured by a modelling agency and has to deal with the obsession of one of her clients. The sequel will have 50 chapters and for the first time a telenovela will premiere on the digital platform first, since it is a Globoplay original production. This is not a typical primetime telenovela, with over 150 chapters and produced while being exhibited, but perhaps this experience, if successful, will be the beginning of a new business model for telenovelas.
In the next chapter, through four case studies, new possibilities of sliding content from broadcast television to digital platforms, transmedia production for telenovelas, and the relationship of the public with participatory content in daily television will be investigated. With these cases, we will observe the degree of permeability of the telenovela in the face of the scenario of convergence of media, screens and transformations in spectatorship.