Rain in Spain likely to remain

MADRID — It’s been a tough year for the biz in Spain, and 2003 looks even tougher.

In May, Sogecable and telco Telefonica announced they were considering a merger of their pay TV operations.

Telefonica satcaster Via Digital and Sogecable paybox Canal Plus are prime Spanish film financiers and key buyers of indie product. Awaiting anti-trust approval, both slowed acquisitions and payments, whammying Spain’s film industry.

Indie distribbers have slashed Spanish pick-ups. Through Dec. 16, production starts fell 29% to 108.

Sogecable and Via were hit by disappointing subscriber take-up. Other sectors also caught the sharp-end of Spain’s economic downturn.

TV advertising was 1% down through Sept. at some E 1.46 billion ($1.46 billion).

Sapped by underperfing U.S. pics and a lack of any local blockbusters, 2002 cinema admissions also look to be flat –around 130 million. Suffering widespread first-phase saturation, Spain’s screen park grew only 2% over 2002 to 3,828 sites.

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