Regional Report: Catalonia

If one regional pubcaster in Spain can withstand swingeing state budget cuts, it’s Televisio de Catalunya (TVC).

Compared to Spain’s other 13 regional state-backed nets, TVC’s got a lot going for it. It has the highest number of channels (five), the largest combined-channel regional share (19.4%) and the biggest operating budget, €339 million ($435 million) in 2012.

Also, TVC enjoys broad local political support as a bastion of the regional language, Catalan, the lingua franca in Spain’s richest and most populous region.

Meanwhile, pubcasters in Castilla-La Mancha and Madrid face the threat of privatization. Valencia’s Canal Nou is already putting through a 76% staff cut that was announced July 18.

TVC’s flagship channel TV3 is the most-watched service in Catalonia, per Madrid’s Barlovento Comunicacion. Its 14.1% regional share through August is the same as in 2011.

Presenting a world close to its viewers, “TV3 is probably the clearest model for local channels in Spain,” suggests TV analyst Eduardo Garcia Matilla. “But it’s still oversized.”

TVC also labors under $142 million debt. Whatever its assets, it has launched a major austerity drive, including slashing 31% of top management jobs.

Over the past three years, TVC’s operating budget has been cut by $128 million, including a 15% cut in 2012.

“The current economic situation dictates far greater prudence,” says TVC CEO Eugenio Sallent. The key, he says, is to “maintain quality standards without renouncing audience objectives.”

Quality programming remains the linchpin of TVC’s strategy. Recent hits include hospital-set youth series, “The Red Band Society,” screened nationwide by commercial channel Antena 3 to excellent ratings, and acquired by DreamWorks TV for English-language remake.

TVC is also pivotal to Catalonia’s film industry. Four TVC co-productions played at San Sebastian, while “The Body,” “Painless” and “El Bosc” are among many TVC co-productions at Sitges.

Of upcoming shows, TVC co-productions head Susana Jimenez highlights the second season of “Band” and fifth of soccer comedy “Crackovia.”

“TV3 has made major adjustments, including re-negotiating production contracts and exploring less expensive formats,” says Jordi Serra, contents and programs head. “We’re now in a much stronger position than most regional broadcasters and still the backbone of Catalonia’s film and TV industry.”

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