Brazilian TV major Globo entered the streaming battlefield in 2015 with the launch of Globoplay, its dedicated VOD service that combines the broadcaster’s hugely popular telenovelas with original high-end drama, sports, and international content including shows from the U.S. majors.
The service has since expanded into the U.S. market, primarily catering to Brazilian expatriates, and the plan is to further grow internationally in 2021. Deadline caught up with the company’s California-based Director of Digital, Erick Bretas, who oversees all online operations at Globo including Globoplay, to discuss plans for the coming year.
Bretas reveals that the streaming platform should be available across Europe by the end of the year, though it will continue to be laser-focused on its Brazilian audience. The originals strategy is ramping up with 82 shows now shooting or in development, but the pandemic remains a challenge to production.
Globo also recently hosted a dedicated ‘Upfront’ event in a digital incarnation, in part because NATPE Miami, which kicks off today, is being held in a reduced online form this year. During that event, the company revealed that it now has 101.6 million users across all of its digital products, with 30 million users for its paid and ad-supported tiers on Globoplay.
Content-wise, the company says the recently-launched supernatural drama Unsoul is its most ambitious project to date, while it is touting the likes of A Brighter Place, A Mother’s Love and the anticipated return of its popular Hidden Truths for a second season in 2021.
Overall, the company’s goal is now to merge digital operations across all of its business, Bretas tells us, as it prepares for a digital future where its main competitors will be the likes of Netflix and Amazon, both of which have already made sizeable pushes into the Brazilian market and are ramping up investment.
DEADLINE: Hi Erick, can you start off by giving us an overview of your responsibilities?
ERICK BRETAS: I oversee all the digital business of Globo, I’m equivalent to a chief digital officer. I also wear another hat as the leader of Globoplay. We have lots of other digital businesses [alongside the streaming service] and we are entering into new ventures.
We launched Globoplay five years ago, at first it was a service that was designed to be complementary to TV Globo, but as time passed it gained force and today it is a more independent service.
DEADLINE: What can you tell us about Globoplay’s subscriber base?
BRETAS: We don’t disclose the total numbers of our subscribers, Netflix doesn’t do it with specific markets either. We protect those numbers. But I can tell you we finished the year of 2020 with an increase of 89% over the number of subscribers in 2019. It was not just the pandemic, we also had Big Brother Brasil which is very popular in Brazil and boosts our subscriptions – some people tend to churn after the show but some remain because they are attracted to the overall content of series, films, telenovelas. But Big Brother is something people use to discover Globo, it’s our biggest show.
2020 was a big year. We are streaming 100 million hours every month. Most of these are from subscribers, we also have some free-to-view content. If you’re not a subscriber you can watch some news, the variety shows, interviews, and small clips from the telenovelas.
DEADLINE: Clearly your market share in Brazil is huge, what is Globoplay’s presence like in the U.S. now?
BRETAS: It’s small. Our international strategy is not to disrupt the big platforms. It’s to serve the Brazilian expatriates. What we are discovering, however, is that a lot of those Brazilians are in international families, and people have started asking us to subtitle shows so families can watch together. This extends our content to a wider audience.
DEADLINE: What about the wider international strategy?
BRETAS: Our plan is to expand internationally. We should go through Europe this year, our plan is to make Globoplay available across the whole world. We have feeds of our linear channels (available on the digital service) which are adapted to individual time zones. But we are always focused on the Brazilians that live abroad.
One of the ways we want to make our content reach broader audiences is by seeking partnerships with global or regional streaming services. There are other very strong regional services such as Stan in Australia, Joyn in Germany, iFlix in Southeast Asia. The idea is to strengthen our relationships by exchanging content or in some cases co-producing together. You will see more of this. Although everybody is talking about the U.S. streaming services we are seeing more and more relevant services in national markets, like ourselves.
DEADLINE: It’s competitive out there, and the U.S. giants have deep pockets…
BRETAS: I think these services will live with the big U.S. services because I don’t think the U.S. companies will be able to produce local content with the same quality and with the same understanding of national markets as the local players do. My personal belief is that we will see coexistence of local and global streaming services. But I can’t forecast how many will remain from these steaming wars, it’s hard to sustain markets where you have 12-15 services.
DEADLINE: Who are your main competitors in Brazil?
BRETAS: Netflix is very big in Brazil. They designed their international expansion strategy in Brazil, arriving there after they first expanded into the English-speaking territories UK and Canada. They produce a lot of local content. Amazon is also starting to produce local content, and Disney has just arrived and is planning to produce a lot. We are seeing movement from HBO as well, they already produce for their pay TV business and probably will for their streaming service as well. All the big guys are producing in the Brazilian market.
We have some other local streaming players. Our competitor Record TV has PlayPlus, which is similar to Globoplay. We have Looke, which is more focused on transaction but they also have some SVOD. It’s a very populated market.
DEADLINE: And you believe that Globoplay is the fastest growing platform in Brazil?
BRETAS: We think that it some point in 2020 we were the fastest growing. It’s hard to tell because the companies don’t release their actual numbers. Sometimes specific shows mean subscribers go up in a certain month, it fluctuates a lot.
DEADLINE: Even without those specific numbers, do you know where you sit in the market in terms of overall subscriber numbers?
BRETAS: In the Brazilian market we are for sure either the second or the third, behind Netflix and perhaps Amazon, who we are competing very closely with.
DEADLINE: Back on content, tell us about co-production and content partnerships.
BRETAS: Last year we launched the amazing show The Head, which was produced by Mediapro. They were very skilful in forming a consortium of buyers/co-producers and we were one of those. They also had Hulu Japan, HBO Asia, Viaplay in Scandinavia.
We also have an agreement with Sony, we are producing The Angel Of Hamburg together and there is a second show that will go into production this year. There are more conversations happening which I can’t disclose specifics on now. We are looking for stories that can be told in different languages and to different audiences, there are so many stories that are interesting for the Brazilian audience that would also be of interest to an American or European audience, we have seven to eight projects like this in the pipeline that either have characters that travel, or relate to a real story or event that happened in multiple counties at the same time. So there are more to come.
DEADLINE: You mean different languages in the same show?
BRETAS: Yes. Like Narcos, for example.
DEADLINE: We talked about Big Brother, what other content is successful on Globoplay? Is it mostly Portuguese-language or is English-language content also successful?
BRETAS: Oh yes, we also license content from everyone, Disney, Warner, NBCU, everyone. We have very popular English shows. I would say the most popular drama show we have on our platform now is The Good Doctor, which is Sony.
DEADLINE: You have a wider deal with Disney too.
BRETAS: We have a commercial partnership with Disney+ where we bundle their service with Globoplay. We really believe the two services are very complimentary. If you want the best service for Brazilian content, Globoplay is for sure your best option, and Disney+ has the family-oriented line-up. It’s an excellent combination and the price is very competitive, it’s less than Netflix’s premium subscription.
DEADLINE: With the expansion of Disney+ into Brazil and other markets, do you expect that deal to come to an end?
BRETAS: It may come to an end, but I would say Disney is happy and we are happy too, so there’s no reason to think of the end of this relationship at the moment.
DEADLINE: What can you tell us about the Globoplay originals side? Is that ramping up?
BRETAS: Yes, it is. We now have 82 shows either in the development phase or in production. We launched 13 originals last year, despite the difficulties of the pandemic, and five of those were big dramas. Originals is the most important piece of our strategy now.
These shows were designed for streaming, it’s very different from a show for broadcast TV. For broadcast TV you target wider audiences and the narrative needs to be slower so even if you miss episodes you can understand what is going on. With streaming, the audience is more engaged and follows it more strictly. You can demand more from them, and be more edgy, give more information per chapter.
DEADLINE: Give us a taster of what’s coming up…
BRETAS: Hidden Truths is one of our biggest bets in 2021. It’s the second part of a show that was first released on broadcast TV back in 2015. It was so popular that the second part will be released on streaming because we believe it will boost our subscriptions.
DEADLINE: How much impact did the pandemic have on production?
BRETAS: We are starting to resume some productions now. It’s still very challenging as we’re in the middle of a second wave. We are managing this very carefully as of course the health of our employees is our priority. But we are managing to resume some with very strict guidelines, which means it’s slower – you’re producing 30-40% of what you would normally produce in one day. When we have the vaccine is when we will resume in full force.
In Brazil some of the global streaming services tried to push through but they had cases where the cast got Covid and they had to shut down productions, it’s not easy to go full throttle at this moment.
DEADLINE: And it must be costly too.
BRETAS: Yes. We had one case on a specific show where the logistics were so complicated that the cost would rise to 120% more than the original budget, so in that case we suspended – didn’t cancel – and will resume only when we have the vaccine. In other cases we are absorbing the rising costs.