By Caitlin Atkinson
On Wednesday, March 29, the Media Management Association welcomed Laura Berga, director of Strategy and Programming Analysis for HBO Latin America Group (LAG). Berga is a University of Miami alumna who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Advertising and Graphic Design. After beginning a career in advertising, she later returned to UM to complete an M.B.A. with a specialization in marketing and finance. During the subsequent years, Berga conducted worldwide consumer research and consulted for a variety of major companies. Later, she received a call from an old client about a job opportunity at HBO, which she gladly accepted.
HBO LAG is a joint venture between Ole Communications, a Venezuelan media company, and Time Warner, which owns 89% of the company. HBO LAG is composed of the HBO and MAX linear premium channels, the Cinemax linear basic channel (not to be confused with the domestic Cinemax), and various over-the-top (OTT) platforms, including HBO GO. In addition, HBO LAG produces and distributes original content and packaged basic channels to service cable operators across the Latin American region.
Berga noted that working on the research team is fast-paced and involves a lot of pressure to keep up with daily ratings and present the programming’s performance evaluation to senior management. The team focuses on collecting quantitative and qualitative data and conducting social media research. They use a variety of research methods, including audience measure reports to track how new series are performing, box office reports to determine the first-run feature films that should be distributed to each country based on success, field studies, and a brand tracker to analyze the “health” of the brand as perceived by viewers.
A particularly interesting research method mentioned by Berga is the proprietary HBO web panel, in which participants video chat with peers while watching HBO content and discuss their thoughts and opinions with one another. Berga emphasized the importance of collecting both quantitative and qualitative data to obtain a holistic picture that includes both factually-based numbers and also the raw feelings and emotions that consumers encounter toward the HBO brand and content.
According to Berga, promoting HBO GO is the current top priority of the company. The online service will soon be available on Android and iOS platforms in Latin America, and its biggest competitors will be Netflix and the Latin American OTT platform, Claro video. In addition, HBO’s primary demographic target is millennials. HBOU is a research initiative that specifically focuses on this generation in an attempt to bridge the gap between their different viewing habits and understand the content they want to consume.
Berga said that the biggest challenges she faces are posed by the region itself. The area of coverage in Latin America is so large and diversified that it is difficult to please the various cultural tastes. HBO LAG's main goal is to keep the content genuine and authentic to the respective countries with regard to cultural references, humor, and even the actors’ accents. In addition, due to impoverished conditions and high levels of content piracy, the penetration rate in Latin America is not always as high as anticipated. Finally, as with any region or industry, Berga said that it is a constant battle to keep up with the rapid evolution of technology and social media, but she also added that her job “is definitely never boring.”
Finally, Berga pointed out that HBO LAG is seeking summer interns as well as college graduates to fill entry-level positions. Students can apply online at jobs.hbolatinamerica.com.