Losses Hit RTVE's Mega Hollywood Deals

State-backed broadcaster posts $146 million deficit in 2012

MADRID — Is this the end of an era? From 1990, as it built up an analog niche channel bouquet, nationwide Spanish pubcaster Radio Television Espanola held down or shared output deals with Hollywood studios, pioneered by a pact with Warner Bros. Intl. Television Distribution.

Those days now look over as RTVE lurches from one financial crisis to another.

In 2012, the pubcaster’s budget was $1.25 billion. On Wednesday, Leopoldo Gonzalez Echenique, prexy of RTVE holding company RTVE Corp., presented accounts to a parliamentary committee showing losses of $146.2 million last year, up from the $38.8 million deficit in 2011.

As Spain’s advertising and real estate markets decline, drivers included a hike in sales taxes from 18% to 21%, a $42.7 million 2012 write-down on the value of RTVE properties, and a decline in revenues from telcos and from a levy on broadcasters’ sales.

RTVE hopes to cover some losses by selling 29 properties and plots of land, including its Bunuel Studios in northern Madrid, for a total of $254.5 million.

It faces a further 3% budget drop for 2013 and is under pressure from the local TV industry and socialist opposition to spend its pared-down resources on local fiction, such as more seasons of historical drama “Isabel” and caped avenger series “Red Eagle,” rather than on Tinseltown trysts.

“The constant decline in revenues will force RTVE to make further cuts, which will affect expensive content such as Hollywood product,” one analyst forecast.

A deal for half of Universal’s first run and library films lapses in June. Beyond that, RTVE accesses part of Sony’s current movies and back film library and has package deals with Paramount.

Necessity still remains the mother of invention, however. RTVE is reportedly negotiating sponsorship deals for Sony movies that would slash the cost of their acquisition.

Emiliano de Pablos contributed to this report.

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