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Brazilian soaps - popular, racy and high-budgeted.

Something has to be said about Brazil, a country that televises the funeral of a noted novela script writer. Besides the famous hot sun of tropical Brazil, soaps are also sizzling in this vast country.

If the titles Wild Cat, Top Model and Test-Tube Mother are any indication of the types of novelas from Brazil, then it's a sign of the times that these productions could be racier than other Latin American novelas.

Traditionally known as the most sensual of the bunch, Brazilian audiences -- which constitute a population of 150 million -- flock to their 24 million television sets on a daily basis.

Although viewing tastes could differ between such major cities as Rio de Janeiro and San Paulo, audiences seem to share a common bond with their interest in the novelas.

Paving the way to a historical future, one of the first novelas to hit the airwaves was Eu Compro Essa Mulher (I'll Buy That Woman), written by (at that time, radio soap writer) Cuban Gloria Magaden. Telenovelas had a rippling effect on Brazilians, who started watching other types of programming--newscasts, comedies, TV movies and entertainment shows. But it all started with the novela.

Magaden was asked to write another soap, The Sheik From Agadir, which in the early days of Brazilian TV, was very innovative: the show even went on location.

Partly because of novelas, worldwide attention was being captured by Globo TV. The very first attempt to sell a telenovela overseas was made in 1977. A compact, Spanish dubbed version of Dian Gomes' novela, The Well Beloved, was bought by Uruguayan TV and shortly after, by other South American countries. Total sales for the year were a modest $300,000, which was not very encouraging, but did point to a large potential audience for something different. Soon, Portugal became interested and the rest of Europe followed. The success of the soap, Gabriela, was so overwhelming that the Portuguese Government Cabinet meetings sometimes had to be postponed, so that the show could be watched.

These days, Brazilian novelas run for six days a week, for six months. The novela Wheel of Fire, reached an average share of 86 per cent of the audience.

According to marketing executives at Globo TV, the largest media conglomerate in Brazil and Latin America, statistics show that soaps in general, constitute an audience of a 66 average rating, with an 81 share for 40 per cent of a male audience and 60 per cent female. Most viewers are in the over 40-year-old category, with ages 25-39 trailing behind.

In another report by rating services IBOPE and AUDI-TV, the breakdown of population by sex in Brazil is female, 51 per cent; male, 49 per cent.

Globo International's European sales chief, Roberto Filippelli, said that the major difference between Brazilian novelas and the rest of Latin America is very simple. "We shoot exteriors about one third of the time. We are the pioneers--others will follow."

Filippelli is proud of his company's presence in Europe. "We started to sell in Europe even before the Americans did. We service many countries, especially in Latin America, and we even sold two or three soaps to the U.S. We're in Spain, Germany and Denmark.

"We will soon be in Holland for the first time. Holland had made their own soap, but it didn't work out. We're also in Switzerland, have four shows in Portugal (two in prime time), Greece, Turkey and Belgium. We're the first distributor to sell to China. Three Americans made the first barter deal 10 years ago; the second company was Globo. We're also in Indonesia and Singapore," enthused Filippelli.

"Unfortunately, most Latin American countries can't compete financially with Brazilian TV. They spend between $100,000 and $150,000 for a half hour episode. We spend more money on research and production," said Filippelli, who produces six novelas a year.

Also different is that Brazilian soaps can show some nudity. "We had a show, Evil Paradise, which showed some nudity. It was on late at night. But, it's not proper to show sex. It's better to leave it to the imagination. The dialogue should be sexy--not heavy words, but soft and romantic," said Filippelli.

"In the last few years, Filippelli raved about one of the most popular script writers, Janet Clair. "She was number one; five years ago she died. Hundreds of people went to her funeral which was televised to an audience of 20 million."
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Title Annotation:soap operas
Publication:Video Age International
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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