• Luis Gomez

The Telenovela TV Format: Could It Revolutionize How Online Streaming Shows Are Made?


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It seems there is no stopping the popularity of binge watching culture through the use of streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. It seems nothing quite compares to the simple pleasure of being at home with an endless supply of entertainment at your disposal.

Although, online streaming providers offer what seems like an endless supply of content for our entertainment, in reality that’s not entirely true. They may offer a lot of content but not all of their content is going to be a match with all subscribers. Getting to the end of the last episode of our favorite show is dreadful because it means embarking on the search for the next thing worth watching. This search can be as quick as a half hour or weeks long. Part of the reason we experience this more often than in the past, is because most current shows have less episodes per season. Fewer episodes directly increase the number of times customers are in the state of searching for new content.

Classic TV shows like “Friends” or “Gilmore Girls” averaged twenty plus episodes per season in their time. Yet, current shows like Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’ or Amazon’s ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” offer roughly just ten episodes, and always leave us wanting more time in their world. The experience these shows provide is dazzling, but in roughly six or seven hours the ride is completely over, until the following year. Thus, the cycle for new content continues.

Given the importance of having constant new content for subscribers, in the fight to offer a high volume of engaging content, could streaming companies be overlooking one obvious TV format?

The telenovela.

Telenovelas are otherwise known as the Spanish soap opera, which are broadcast mainly in the U.S. and Latin America.

Some might perceive telenovelas as antiquated, dinosaurs in the modern entertainment era. Others might take issue with the quality of telenovelas, long-though to be cheesy, unrealistic, and hyper dramatic. None of these observations about Spanish soap opera’s are necessarily inaccurate, but they hardly paint the full picture, because telenovelas differ from country to country, and are one of those rare forms of entertainment that attracts many demographics: women, men, and viewership from practically every age group.

Telenovelas may be known as a Spanish soap opera’s but there are important differences between the format of a telenovela and an American soap opera. The most important difference might be that telenovelas unlike the American version have a limited run. Telenovelas are not intended to run for years or decades such as “General Hospital.” Telenovelas usually run for a number of months and then the series concludes. As a result of having an existing “end date” telenovelas do not feel drawn out and slow paced like many associate with American soap operas.

Some may wonder, why should content creators want to switch from a ten episode per season format to a “telenovela” format that only has one season and much more episodes. The answer in part, is that the telenovela format provides a lot of content and in certain instances helps the quality of the overall series. Some series debut with a sharply written script in their first season, yet the magic seems to get lost along the way onto the second season and beyond. The more time passes from the original writing and crafting of a show, the more the show seems to loose it’s footing. So, instead of developing additional weaker seasons, developing further and extending the first season, especially while the writers have their finger on the very pulse of the show, makes sense.

When a telenovela is done well it is a spectacular thing. Every episode does not just move the story further, but the beats in the storyline are setup in such a way, that every episode day after day has a cliffhanger to connect it to the next episode. Once you get hooked into watching a telenovela, you don’t just choose to watch it, you MUST watch. Telenovela writing makes for highly suspenseful and addictive content. Try interrupting someone watching their favorite telenovela and they are likely to swat you away. It is precisely that addictive relationship with content that fuels “binge watching” and telenovelas regardless of the stigma associated with them, may have a natural place in that culture.