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Spain produces TV hits

Trio of rookie shows take on Hollywood

Just when you thought Spain couldn’t produce homegrown TV hits, three rookies are threatening Hollywood’s dominance in primetime.

  •  Bowing Thursday primetime Feb. 19, pubcaster TVE-1’s “Red Eagle,” about a 17th century masked avenger, earned a 26.4% share and followed that up with 26.5%.

  •  Launched Feb. 22, Antena 3 TV’s “Doctor Mateo,” a feel-good seaside dramedy,  won Sunday primetime with 26.5% and 20.8% shares.

  •  TVE-1’s “Pelotas,” a sex and soccer comedy, made a creditable 17.6% debut, then captured 16.2% on March 2.

The trio offer varied relief from recession angst. “Eagle” provides wish fulfillment: Spain’s strong enough to have its own crime-busting caped crusader.

Feel-good “Mateo” is set in a dinky fishing village: everyone’s in work, but nobody has to work much at all. In its second seg, the medico’s two young assistants dedicate their largest workplace energies to having sex on his desk.

” ‘Eagle’ is absolutely different. That’s what audiences are looking for. U.S. series — ‘CSI,’ ‘House’ were innovative. But U.S. fiction’s no longer in the vanguard of innovation,” says Eduardo Garcia Matilla, at research org Corporacion Multimedia.

Spain’s only new U.S. hits are La Sexta’s “The Mentalist,” punching around 10%, and Telecinco’s “Life,” making 21% or more, led in by “CSI.”

The big new blockbuster glut is no apocalypse for the U.S. studios. Most Spanish broadcasters hold down output deals — TVE with Warner Bros., Universal and Sony. Studio product plays throughout skeds and onto growing ancillary services, such as Digital Terrestrial TV. Boutique channels La Sexta and Cuatro buy U.S. series voraciously.

“U.S. series acquisitions will be a La Sexta priority, in good or bad times,” says Sexta acquisitions chief Sergio Ramos.

Bigger broadcasters Telecinco and A3TV will be aggressive, yet much more selective.

“U.S. production hasn’t had many hits this year. It’s hard for them to play primetime on Spain’s big broadcast networks,” says A3TV acquisitions head Mercedes Gamero. “American shows are attractive, since they’re much cheaper, but better for latenight or access-primetime.”

Emiliano de Pablos contributed to this report.

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