MADRID — In a move that will send seismic waves through Spain’s film and TV industry, its most important executive, Ele Juarez, ankled Wednesday as managing director of the country’s biggest film and TV conglom, Sogecable.
Juarez will continue to work on a non-exclusive basis as an international consultant for Sogecable, a joint venture of France’s Canal Plus and Spanish media empire Prisa.
While Juarez cites “personal reasons” for leaving Sogecable, his departure also reflects how politics have come to dominate business in the Spanish industry. Juarez, a self declared entrepreneur who has worked for Barry Diller and Joe Roth, simply wants out.
Appointed managing director of Sogecable in October 1995, Juarez was responsible for planning and launching the first direct to home digital service in Spain, Canal Satelite Digital. Juarez proved crucial in negotiating digital deals with six of the U.S. studios. CSD subscriptions stand at a healthy 500,000.
Juarez also oversaw Sogecable’s entry into exhibition through joint venture Warner Lusomundo Cines de Espana plus dramatic growth of production house Sogetel and distributor Sogepaq.
But Sogecable now faces a far different future, dominated by negotiations between Sogecable and rival digital operator Via Digital over how to share pay TV soccer rights in Spain.
How those rights will be sliced is likely to be determined less by purely commercial concerns than high level politics, particularly some kind of tradeoff between the government and Prisa, which is closely associated with the opposition socialists.
Amiable, ambitious and highly regarded in the United States, where he worked as president of 20th Century Fox’s International Video Division, Juarez has chosen not to face such realpolitik.
“I’m a businessman,” Juarez told Daily Variety. “I’m also looking forward to getting back to the U.S., where my sons are taking their first steps making films,” he added.
Juarez now plans to establish an indie production and consultancy company specializing in strategic joint ventures and channel packaging.
Juarez’s position may not be filled immediately. Carlos Abad, the successful director of Canal Plus Spain may well play a more central role, however, overseeing both the paybox and CSD. Jose Manuel Lorenzo, former general manager of commercial net Antena 3 TV is also tipped to become director of Canal Plus, reporting to Abad.