From the start of the HBO Max panel during Billboard’s Latin Music Week conference in Miami (Sept. 20-25), one thing was made crystal clear: “HBO has been in this game for a long time,” as Leslie Cohen, senior vp content acquisitions for WarnerMedia, HBO Max/HBO, said.
For the panel titled “Moving Our Music Pa’lante: How HBO Max is brining sounds to the screen,” Cohen was joined by Edgar Martinez, svp entertainment, Loud and Live; Jessica Vargas, director of multicultural marketing, HBO Max/HBO; and global superstar Farruko, who recently recorded an episode of the HBO Max series En Letra De Otro (“the lyrics of another”), performing covers of favorite songs from Frankie Ruiz’ “Vuelvo a Nacer” to Ricardo Arjona’s “Asignatura Pendiente” and filmed in his home island of Puerto Rico.
“I was the one who asked Sony, ‘Look I’d love to do this special with HBO. I believe I have the capacity to do it and I’d be the first Urbano artist to take part in the special,’” said Farruko, who garnered a huge applause every time he spoke. “Basically what I did was a trip through my childhood and picked the songs that motivated me since I was a kid. Not just in reggaeton, but in all genres. For me, it was a retrospective challenge to return to my roots; I broke the rules and showed that you don’t have to follow parameters, just do what you like.”
En Letra De Otro is just one example of the vast programming aimed at the Latin community offered by HBO Max, which in March launched Pa’lante, which Vargas described as the platform’s “new baby.” She continued to explain how Pa’lante (which translates to “forward”) is a social-first, audience-driven initiative to “elevate Latinos in front of and behind the screen.”
A sizzle reel highlighting some of the 50+ artists who are featured on the platform proved how, as Vargas said, Pa’lante is all about “programming that penetrates.” Previous wins included Pedro Capo’s 2017 En Letra De Otro special, Shakira In Concert: El Dorado World Tour, which aired around the 2020 Super Bowl (at which Shakira performed alongside Jennifer Lopez for the halftime show) and recently the documentary Romeo Santos: King of Bachata, which the platform celebrated by creating a hologram of the star for an immersive experience. “Fans want that relationship,” said Vargas, adding that access to talent is hugely helpful when it comes to a successful marketing campaign — “and that’s what [our] partners bring to us.”
Martinez said his company’s music relationship with HBO dates back to 2016 (and added with a laugh that the platform has yet to turn one of Loud and Live’s artists down). And while Cohen admitted HBO Max/HBO can’t take on every pitch, she did add that they need to keep a “steady flow” of acquisitions coming — and seem to be on track to do just that.
As Vargas said: “That’s [our] goal: to make parties.”
“Latinos are predominantly looking for music,” added Martinez of the surplus of music programming available on HBO Max/HBO. “Latin music is trending — and we’re here to stay.”