Spanish law forces telco to return to content financing

In a cautious return to film and TV content financing in Spain, telco giant Telefonica has launched Telefonica Prods.

Part of the Telefonica Contents unit, its main mission will be to channel 5% of the telco’s annual TV revenues into features, TV movies, series and docs as demanded by a general audiovisual law that came into force on Jan. 1, bringing telcos in line with broadcasters. Telefonica execs Ezequiel Nieto and Angel Vila will lead the shingle and administer an estimated €2 million ($2.7 million) to $4 million a year.

Just over a decade ago, Telefonica nearly dominated Spain’s film and TV biz. Focusing on its core biz, however, it sold off movie producer Lolafilms in 2004 and Dutch reality TV giant Endemol in 2007.Telefonica’s TV incomes in Spain take in IPTV service Imagenio and cell-phone operator Movistar.

Last year, the telco tested the Spanish film market, financing 30% of Andrucha Waddington’s $15 million pic “Lope” — sharing equity with the telco’s division in Brazil — and Daniel Benmayor’s $5.5 million historical actioner “Bruc: The Challenge.”

Beyond its production interests in Latin America, Telefonica has a bet on TV fiction via its Madrid-based subsid Telefonica Servicios Audiovisuales, which is co-producing “Casi Angeles,” an adaptation for Spain of Argentine production house Cris Morena Group’s hit TV series.

A big question is if Telefonica Prods., which is now defining its business strategy, will go on to integrate all Telefonica’s film and TV production interests around the world.

For now, given Spain’s economic crisis, what looks more likely is that Telefonica Prods. content investment won’t go far beyond what the Spanish law requires, sources added.

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