Antena 3 tunes in to Hollywood pix pacts

It ramps up while rival webs go local

MADRID — As Spain’s independent distribs trawl the halls of the American Film Market this week, many will be thanking their lucky stars for Spanish commercial web Antena 3.

Antena 3 is revving up its Yank movie commitment, while rival Telecinco cut investment in U.S. movies from $120 million in 2002 to $90 million in 2003 and 2004. Pubcaster RTVE wants to hike Spanish movies to 30% of all movie broadcasts.

Run by DeAPlaneta since May 2003, Antena 3 has a five-year output deal with Fox, inked in 2000. It has a four-year deal with Columbia TriStar dating from 2002’s “The Zorro,” and shares a first run/library multiyear volume accord with Universal. It has a long-running deal with indie distribs Aurum Producciones, a first-run pic package with Lauren, and mini packages with Filmax and Manga.

It recently inked a title-by-title package from TriPictures, including Oliver Stone’s “Alexander.”

Antena 3 also buys big pics from DeAPlaneta, such as “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” and is trying to re-up with Universal.

The strategy seems contradictory: Hit by DVD and pay TV exposure, terrestrial ratings for movies in Spain have plunged in a decade.

The most-watched movie on Spanish TV in 1993 — “Pretty Woman” — notched 9.2 million viewers; 2003’s top film — “The Sixth Sense” — lured 5.5 million.

A more selective film focus makes sense for the web, however.

Publicly listed, Telecinco and Antena 3 must maintain ratings to bulwark their stock. Both have deep pockets. Antena 3 posted E67 million ($84.8 million) net profits through September.

But, crucially, Antena 3 is in a different growth phase to Telecinco.

Telecinco has been run professionally since the mid ’90s, Antena 3 for only 18 months after a disastrous time under Telefonica, and has yet to develop a broad portfolio of content.

That’s where movies, which rev ratings far more flexibly than series, come into play.

Per Antena 3 programming director Fernando Jerez, A3 can market the hell out of films, with long run-in campaigns and cross-promotions.

Firing off some heavy artillery — “The Count of Monte Cristo,” “Kiss of the Dragon” — Antena 3 has had a great new season start, airing seven of the top 10 most-seen movies, Sept. 1-Oct.18, with its Monday night movie slot taking a 26% share, 20% above the channel average.

Antena 3 faces challenges. One is that movie suppliers begin to sit on pics, hopeful the Spanish government will grant two new analog TV franchises. Another is making sure it has enough big movies.

Both mean Antena 3 will be looking to close more deals.

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