Recipe for Sexta success

Consortium cooks up bid for Spanish analog license

Take the world’s largest Spanish-lingo TV content provider, Mexico’s Televisa. Add Spain’s most successful drama producer, Arbol. Stir in top Spanish rights-broker Mediapro, production company Drive and hot comedy house El Terrat. Season with Bainet, Spain’s best-known TV chef’s label.

What have you got? A consortium, La Sexta, unveiled Oct. 14, which will almost certainly snag the franchise of Spain’s last analog broadcaster plus two digital terrestrial channels, to be adjudicated Dec. 2.

Sexta’s only rival is Kiss Media, a maverick radio/local TV group.

The winner will reach 70% of Spaniards. Sexta’s Channel 6 could operate with 3%-7% shares, says an Arbol spokesperson. It will target young, urban auds with edgier fare than its partners’ normal productions.

Most Spanish primetime fiction is family viewing. “The aim is to offer shows similar in style to ‘The West Wing,’ or ‘The Sopranos,’ ” says Mediapro prexy Jaume Roures.

Sexta raises questions. One is how its Spanish shareholders’ clients, now broadcaster rivals, will react.

“We’ll go on working for them, if they want to work with us,” says the Arbol spokesperson.

Incumbent web Telecinco, averaging 22.6%, will hardly yank Arbol-produced primetime series “7 Lives” (28.6%), “Aida” (29.3%) and “The Serranos” (30.8%).

Another is how Televisa, whose telenovelas skew old-rural rather than young and trendy, will fit the mix.

Some consortium execs — Arbol’s Jose Miguel Contreras and Terrat’s latenight host Andreu Buenafuente — look Stateside for inspiration. Given its production expertise, 6 may favor re-versioning over original shows.

In this regard it contrasts with Cuatro, the new Sogecable-owned broadcaster that launches nationwide Nov. 7.

Cuatro, which also will skew young, aims for 8% aud share in its second year and expects to spend E100 million to E200 million ($119.4 million to $238.7 million) a year on programming.

Top U.S. shows are central to Cuatro. It’s bought HBO mini “Rome,” has “Crossing Jordan” and “Las Vegas” for off-primetime, and will launch with hip, new firstrun skeins.

However, 6 isn’t a golden goose.

“6 might be niche, young, urban — but not profitable. Cuatro can share costs with Sogecable satcaster Digital Plus; Sexta will face all its structural costs,” says Glen Spencer Chapman at Ibersecurities. “Its aim could be to have a foot in DTT, when Spain switches off its analog signal in 2010 and operators create specialized channels,” he adds.

“As producers, we have infrastructures, we’ll be able to offer shows and services below normal market costs,” Roures counters.

The new players will certainly impact the incumbents, Telecinco and Antena 3.

“If 6 gets 5% and Cuatro 10%, there won’t be sufficient TV ad growth for everybody to make money,” says Javier Marin at Morgan Stanley. “Telecinco and Antena 3 will still be profitable, but Spain’s free-to-air advertising Wonderland could be over.”

(Emiliano de Pablos contributed to this report.)

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