It’s official, I am below average . . .

Brazil Soap Opera_Garc

If religion was the opiate of the masses in the time of Karl Marx, then Soap Operas might just be the opiate of the masses today.

Being in Brazil for a week has left me with the impression that I am below average!  In TV watching that is.  Brazilian based Rede Globo, is the fourth-largest public TV commercial network in the world and one of the largest producer of soap operas, or novelas as they are called in Portuguese. And the average Brazilian watches 4-5 hours of television a day, equal and some say higher than US daily television consumption.  I am definitely well below average!

384672111-favela-da-mare-providing-satellite-dish-ghettoWhat first got me thinking about television consumption and soap operas was driving across Sao Paulo for a meeting and seeing the shanty homes of clapboard and corrugated tin, many with satellite dishes attached! Not just on a few, but on many.  And my friends tell me that those without tv dishes tap into the signals from their neighbours. And the streets of Sao Paulo are lined with electronics companies and massive displays of TVs.  Television consumption in Brazil is upwards of 85%, and that’s in a country of approximately 195 million.

And television, especially soap operas have a very real impact on people and society, especially in developing countries.  Several studies have shown that in Brazil, the introduction of television and the ubiquity of soap operas (novelas) has dramatically impacted both the fertility rate and divorce rate in Brazil.  The vast majority of novelas depict happy families as being rich, white and with few children, while at the same time depicting unhappy families as being poor and having many children.  A powerful stereotype and influential role model for women in Brazil, especially the under-educated majority.  In fact, soap operas are so powerful that women routinely name children after the most popular stars! And you can even watch your favourite soap opera in a taxi cab!

In addition, long hours of television watching has been linked to reduced community involvement, as more and more people stay at home to watch the tube instead of socializing within their communities.

But, there is also some good news in that soap operas also help educate people on social issues, such as AIDS and HIV, spousal abuse and other issues in urban societies. Brazil has undergone a massive cultural paradigm shift, due in large part to how women are portrayed in soap operas, in its women’s attitudes and their self-esteem. In roughly the last 50 years, Brazil’s birth rate has dropped from 6.3 children per woman in 1960 to 1.9 today. That’s lower than the United States’ rate of 2.0.

To me, such a powerful medium for social impact can go either way, a blessing or a curse. But one thing is for certain, soap operas in Brazil are not going sway!

Written and Posted by:

John R Childress
Senior Advisor on Corporate Culture, Leadership and Strategy Execution
Author of LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture and FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid


PS: John also writes thriller novels

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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3 Responses to It’s official, I am below average . . .

  1. earthslang says:

    That’s fascinating; I would have had no idea that telenovela watching was so prevalent in BRazil. Thanks for outlining some of the pros and cons as well. As someone without a TV, I find it hard to conceptualize how TV has become such a priority in a country in which a lot of the population is still underresourced. Really interesting; thanks for sharing!


  2. Pingback: Bianca Romero head of IEEP « The Holliewood15

  3. And we’re average!


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