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Spain’s TVE thrives without ads

Ratings for movies surge on network

MADRID — Ad-free since Jan. 1, Spanish pubcaster TVE has gone on a ratings rampage.

The network’s total ad nix, imposed by the government, has also created a new phenom: “cine sin publi” — movies without commercial breaks — which is taking Spain by storm.

TVE was already Spain’s ratings leader. December aud share at core channel TVE 1 was 16.5% vs. Telecinco’s 15.4% and Antena 3’s 13.7%.

This month, that gap has widened. Through Sunday, TVE boasted an 18.9% aud share, Telecinco took 14.4% and Antena 3 had 12.7%.

Ratings also-rans in recent years, movies once more rank as TV blockbusters. On Sunday, TVE 1-aired “Knocked Up” knocked out allcomers, notching up 21.6% and 4 million viewers, against 13.1% and 2.5 million eyeballs for Telecinco’s Spanish miniseries “Inocentes,” and 13.1% and 2.7 million for Antena 3’s satirical sketch show “La escobilla nacional.”

Both playing TVE 1’s Movie of the Week Sunday slot, Jan. 3’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” notched up 31.7% and 5.7 million, Nic Cage starrer “National Treasure” 29.1% and 5.8 million a week later.

Highest-rated movie on TV last year was “The Lake House” with 24.2% and 4.8 million.

The most obvious explanation for Spain’s “cine sin publi” boom is that a large part of TVE 1’s older skewing demos rarely catch movies on pay TV or in theaters and certainly not via downloads.

Trouble for Telecinco and Antena 3 is that TVE is rolling off a “sin publi” boost in general.

The second season of 17th-century caped crusader actioner “Red Eagle,” TVE’s top drama, recalled ratings of yore, bowing Jan. 7 to a 27.6% and 5.6 million.

TVE’s ratings dominion looks set to last, given that it extends to all its sked, argued Eduardo Garcia Matilla, prexy of aud research company Corporacion Multimedia.

“TVE, crucially, doesn’t depend so much on primetime as its rivals,” he said. “Its after-lunch telenovelas and newscasts, now stretched to 65 minutes, are also firing well.”

So, for Telecinco and Antena 3, who campaigned for years for an ad nix at TVE, the commercials-free pubcaster is proving a poisoned chalice.

“Telecinco and Antena 3 aim to put through ad price rises of 15%-20% in January. That’s a bit difficult when they’re losing so much share,” said an analyst.

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