Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 15th 2014 Contents JUNE 15 • 2014 www.guardian.co.tt SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN
NEWS | SBG19
When the football
World Cup began on
June 12 in Brazil, tens
of millions of Brazil-
ians tuned in to
watch the festivities
onto TV Globo, the country s largest broadcast
network. For Globo, though, it was simply
another day of vast audiences. No fewer than
91 million people, almost half the population,
tune in to the network each day. It s the sort
of audience that, in the United States, is to
be had only once a year, and only for the one
network that has won that year s rights to
broadcast the Super Bowl.
Globo is surely Brazil s most powerful com-
pany, given its reach into so many homes. Its
nearest competitor in free-to-air television,
Record, has an audience share of only about
13 per cent. America s most popular broadcast
network, CBS, has a mere 12 per cent share
of the audience during prime time, and its
main competitors have around eight per cent.
The company started in Rio de Janeiro with
a newspaper, O Globo, in 1925, and was built
by a visionary and long-lived media titan,
Roberto Marinho, who died in 2003 at 98.
As it has grown in the television age, Globo
arguably has done as much as any politician
to unite a vast and diverse country, from the
Amazonian jungle to the heart of coffee-
growing country, from wretched favelas on
the urban periphery to the fancy boutiques
of downtown Rio and Sao Paulo.
Today it is controlled by Marinho s three
sons and towers over Brazil like Rio s Christ
the Redeemer statue. It is the largest media
company in Latin America, with revenues
that reached US$6.3 billion in 2013, having
climbed impressively during the past decade.
As a powerful, family-owned media firm, it
looks like a local version of Rupert Murdoch s
News Corporation, without the family drama.
Globo counts pay-television stations, mag-
azines, radio, film production and newspapers
as parts of its empire, but most of its profits
come from its broadcast network, which airs
salacious telenovelas, or soap operas, that are
always the talk of Brazil. In richer countries
the habit of "appointment viewing" has
declined with the spread of digital video
recorders, but Brazilians still tune in devoutly
for the three telenovelas that run each evening,
six days a week.
Globo airs Brazil s snazziest and freshest
shows, but its business model feels decidedly
old-fashioned. Its programmes are filmed on
its own vast studio lot, called Projac, nestled
among forested mountains on the edge of
Rio. Actors and writers are under contract,
as they were in the golden age of Hollywood.
Workers stitch lavish costumes and build
intricate sets on site, like those of "Meu Pedac-
inho de Chao" ("My Little Patch of Land"),
one of the current soaps, a fantastical tale
about a small town seen through a child s
eyes. The telenovela format can be adapted
to audience feedback, and plots can be changed
on the fly depending on what viewers like.
Globo executives obsess over the real-time
audience figures streamed to their offices.
"If ratings decline a tenth of a per cent,"
one of them says, "you feel this building
For advertisers wanting to get a message
to a national audience, Globo is the obvious
choice. The company knows this, and is esti-
mated to have raised its rates for prime-time
spots by nearly 60 per cent since 2010.
Not everyone is comfortable with Globo s
good fortune. Critics are unsettled by the
firm s share of advertising and audience. It
controls everything from Brazilians access to
news to the market rates for journalists
salaries. Even entertainment shows can be
remarkably influential: "Salve Jorge," a recent
soap set in Turkey, prompted hordes of Brazil-
ians to take vacations there.
Its programmes also shape the national
culture. This year it aired what it believes was
the first gay kiss on a broadcast network.
Elsewhere in Latin America big media com-
panies are in the midst of real-life dramas.
Argentina s Grupo Clarin is being carved up
by the government, and Mexico is trying to
make Carlos Slim s Televisa slim down. Brazil s
government is more docile toward media own-
ers, however. It helps that the Marinhos tend
to adapt to the political climate. The elder
Marinho was a staunch supporter of the coun-
try s 1964-1985 military dictatorship. Today
his sons live in a more liberal, democratic
Brazil and stay out of the public eye. Last
year they ran an apology for their father s
politics in the "errors" section of O Globo.
Brazil does not have a tradition of sequels
and prequels, and popular telenovelas are
always killed off after a few months to make
way for new ones: "Meu Pedacinho" is a rare
remake. Likewise, for two decades people
have predicted that Globo s heady success
would come to an end as Brazilians look for
So far it has defied them. Sir Martin Sorrell,
the boss of WPP, a London-based advertising
firm, points out that, as in Japan, traditional
media in Brazil are "like a fortress" and con-
tinue to hold strong in spite of the incursions
of new entertainment sources.
Because Brazil has lagged media trends in
rich countries, Globo has been able to watch
foreign firms mistakes "so we don t have to
make them," says Roberto Irineu Marinho,
the CEO. Internet use has taken off in Brazil,
however, and will alter consumers viewing
habits in time.
Today Brazil has more mobile telephones
than it has people, and penetration of pay-
television has slowly crept to around 28 per
cent of households. In April Brazilians spent
around 12.5 hours a week on online social
networks from their desktop computers, more
than double the global average, according to
Comscore, a research firm.
For the first time in Globo s history, in short,
it is facing serious competition for advertisers
and audience. Increasingly Brazil s advertising
market will be a contest between the two Gs:
Globo and Google.
Globo still is the biggest fish in a big pond,
and can keep a hold on Brazilians attention,
even as they migrate to new platforms. For
example, as more households can afford pay-
television packages, Globo may lose viewers
from its free-to-air network, but should gain
when they tune in to the group s paid-for
channels. It is experimenting with new online
offerings, such as letting people subscribe for
a monthly fee to view its content online with
a time delay.
"We don t want to jeopardise our advertising
revenues by changing people s habits," says
Jorge Nobrega, a senior Globo executive, "but
we have to be ready."
Netflix, the American online-video firm,
has entered Brazil, but Globo-boosters argue
that Brazilians prefer telenovelas to foreign
fare. In television, as in soccer, they are likely
to keep rooting for the home team.
@2014 The Economist Newspaper Ltd.
Distributed by the New York Times Syn-
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