Telefonica in talks with at least four U.S. companies

MADRID — Adding further to its string of worldwide investment negotiations, Telefonica Media (TM) is in talks with “four to five” U.S.-based companies for a range of equity participation deals or joint ventures, Alberto Ennis, director of programming content, said Tuesday.

Speaking to Daily Variety on the first day of the Ibero-American Co-Production Forum, Ennis confirmed that TM was talking with, among others, Telemundo, NBC, Castle Rock and Artisan.

While Ennis did not go into details about the talks, various scenarios are emerging for discussions with each potential partner:

  • TM has made a play to buy up or into Telemundo. TM could also prove a fertile co-production partner for Telemundo as the U.S. Spanish-lingo broadcaster seeks to broaden and go upscale its programming sked. A Telemundo source, however said a deal was unlikely because the Spanish media giant and Telemundo owners Sony and Liberty Media are far apart on price.

    “They are nearly a billion dollars apart in price,” a Telemundo source told Daily Variety, adding that a takeover by the Spanish media group would require Federal Communications Commission approvals.

  • Telefonica and German production/distribution powerhouse Kinowelt Medien are parleying to take a minority stake in Artisan Entertainment ahead of its planned IPO.

  • TM has had several meetings with Castle Rock execs to frame a partnership that could run anywhere, say sources, from TM buying a stake in the Warner Bros. company to taking equity in Castle Rock pic productions as part of a larger distrib deal for Spain with WB.

  • Details are vague on the talks with NBC.

Ennis also confirmed that TM’s war chest for film investment this year will run to $150 million-$200 million.

The figure, he said, includes investment in pics produced by the TM-controlled Lolafilms — some $50 million alone, plus pre-buys of pics by TM broadcasters such as Spanish commercial net Antena 3 and satcaster Via Digital.

Prospects warm confab

Enthralled by the possibility of TM equity for many of the 38 pic projects unveiled at the meet, the Ibero-American Co-Production Forum kicked off in a buoyant mood with an inaugural lecture by Sony Pictures Classic co-prexy Michael Barker on the potential for U.S. distribution for Spanish-lingo pics.

Spanish Culture Minister Pilar del Castillo also announced additional promotional coin for pics co-financed by the Ibermedia fund for Spanish lingo co-productions.

(Mary Sutter in Miami contributed to this report.)

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