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Spanish ‘Eagle’ soars to new heights

Swashbuckler nabs almost 30% share

MADRID — “Aguila roja” (Red Eagle), a Spanish swashbuckler, broke recent records in Spain Thursday, notching up an extraordinary 29.5% share and 5,804,000 viewers.

That’s the best perf this 2009-10 season for a TV drama in Spain, and bested the top-rating fiction — Spanish or foreign — of 2009, Spanish sitcom “Aida,” which peaked at 5,735,000 eyeballs last year.

Spain’s highest-rating U.S. skein, Telecinco-broadcast “CSI,” notched up 3,800,000 and a 19.6% share on March 1. Airing on Cuatro, “House’s” sixth season saw its biggest aud Jan. 20 with a 12.1% share with 2,493,000 viewers.

The audience leader on pubcaster RTVE’s main channel, TVE-1, family skein “Eagle” marked a huge gamble by Globomedia, Spain’s top TV fiction production house, which reportedly paid Euros1.9 million ($2.6 million) per seg for “Eagle’s” early episodes. But the gamble is paying off, and then some.

“Eagle,” now in its soph season, plays like a 16th-century “Batman,” turning on a modest school teacher in Madrid, who moonlights as a caped crusader, battling forces of evil — such as a sado Madrid police commissioner, or a plot to turn Spain’s Moors into a slave labor force.

“It’s novel and different, a comedy format, with stock characters, recast as an adventure drama,” said Eduardo Garcia Matilla, prexy of Madrid research company Corporacion Multimedia.

RTVE is still benefiting from a government veto on any advertising from Jan. 1, which means that auds see “Eagle,” unlike series on rival broadcasters Telecinco and Antena 3, without commercial breaks.

Bowing February 2009, “Eagle’s” first 13-seg season averaged 25.5%, and 4,637,000 viewers. To date, the second season’s nine segs’ average is a 28% share and 5,632,000 eyeballs.

“Eagle” has broken through to become a brand, accumulating auds, said Garcia Matilla.

“If you’re a share leader, you become a social phenomenon. People want to talk about the same thing they see and they don’t have many options,” he added.

Garcia Matilla estimated that audience leaders could benefit from a “20%-25% audience premium” from viewers who simply want to be able to talk about what others watch.

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