Pubcaster sells stake in Via Digital
MADRID — Giant Spanish pubcaster Radio Television Espanola (RTVE) is aiming to reorient its product acquisitions policy with the U.S. majors — away from massive package deals toward both more selective buying and, where possible, co-production.RTVE is very near to signing product deals with both Universal Studios and Warner Bros. International Television, RTVE’s new top exec, director general Pio Cabanillas, told Daily Variety. But RTVE is also open to talks with the U.S. studios to develop co-productions involving TV movies and other formats, Cabanillas said. Quality before quantity Due to competition from pay TV and free-to-air private nets, “The trend for the future of public broadcasters is to be more selective in the acquisition of rights for movies, moving to quality rather than quantity,” Cabanillas said. “We have to find new means of cooperation (with the U.S. majors) other than the straight acquisition of movies. One is co-production,” he added. The move toward new relations with the majors forms part of a potential radical change at RTVE under Cabanillas, appointed director general by the Spanish government in November 1998. Cabanillas has moved swiftly to contain RTVE’s debt load at its year-end 1998 level of $4 billion, negotiating a after-tax return of some $306 million and a minimum $470 million in compensation for the sale of RTVE’s TV transmission grid to Retevision. Via Digital sale Cabanillas also has announced the sale of RTVE’s 17% stake in digital satcaster Via Digital. Together, these measures could go a long way to cover RTVE’s additional debt accrued over 1999 of some $1 billion. But the big question for RTVE’s future — how it will be financed — lies in the hands of Spain’s Parliament. A parliamentary subcommittee is skedded to file a report on a future financing model for RTVE by the end of June. RTVE currently limps from year to year depending on ad sales and government-guaranteed credit loans. “I think we can stop RTVE’s debt snowball and rationalize what this house is about. There will never be a better time for Parliament to take a decision on a financing model for RTVE. All I can do is to urge them to take it,” Cabanillas said.