Spanish conglom finds opportunities in a crisis enviroment

MADRID — Spain’s Vertice 360 Group is betting on the crisis.

Vertice-owned Notro TV, its TV production company, is producing “Con el culo el aire,” a comedy about Spain’s unemployed.

Shooting from late October, the 13-seg “Aire” will air on broadcast network Antena 3.

Vertice Sales will handle international distribution.

Meanwhile, Vertice is betting on growth at its core business, production services, as increasingly cash-strapped Spanish broadcasters seek to outsource services, aiming, like the characters of “Aire,” to make ends meet.

“Aire” turns on a motley group of Spaniards forced by a variety of circumstances — forced retirement, a company bankruptcy, a difficult divorce — to abandon the big city for a trailerpark in the countryside.

There, they seek to make ends meet, often via highly suspect schemes to make money.

Among the ensemble cast are Paco Tous, star of TV hit “Paco’s Men,” and Maria Leon, best actress at San Sebastian for “The Sleeping Voice,” who plays the divorcee.

Working with Miami-based company 360Powwow, in which Vertice owns a 50% stake, the company will prep a bible aiming to pitch a U.S. remake, after its tapped the U.S. talent.

Vertice 360 sees a big upside in Spanish networks’ inevitable downscaling, said Daniel Rubio, Vertice’s operations and financing director.

The crisis has its downside. There are certain series formats that are too expensive to remake in Spain.

Notro TV re-versioned U.K. skein “Doc Martin” as hit primetime series “Doctor Mateo,” set in an exquisite fishing village in northern Spain’s Asturias.

“Right now that wouldn’t happen. We’re not getting budgets to produce even half of that show,” said Nathalie Garcia, general manager at Notro TV.

Even before the crisis, which has left Spain with 5 million unemployed, budgets were tight at Euros 500,000-Euros600,000 ($688,000-$825,600) “for a good-looking primetime series,” Garcia said.

However, cost-cutting opens up new opportunities.

Vertice 360 Group’s revenues came in at $153 million in 2010, 1% up on 2009. Operating profit ran at $24.1 million.

Film and TV services accounted for 58% of sales. Spain offers a potential services market of $481.6 million, Rubio said.

“At this moment, Spain’s broadcast networks are in a process of outsourcing the auxiliary areas of their business,” he said.

Vertice will also look to growth via international sales. Interactive TV and international account for around 5% of revenue. International activities — Vertice sales, which is firing up its slate via in-house Vertice productions and third-party pick-ups, and 360Powwow — should account for 10% of annual revenues within two years, Rubio added.

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