Auds tune in Spanish fare

Drama sees modest, but steady stream of int'l pacts in 2004

MADRID — Spanish fiction has ruled domestic skeds for a decade.

But, barring sparse exceptions — Globomedia’s “Medico de familia” (Family Doctor) and pubcaster RTVE’s stripper-nanny dramedy “Ana and the 7” — its exports have seen a mere trickle of sales.

That changed in 2004 when drama saw a modest, but steady stream of international deals.

It kicked off in February when French broadcaster M6 began airing the “Fame”-like drama “Un paso adelante” (One Step Forward). Produced by Globomedia for Spanish broadcaster Antena 3 and sold by Spain’s Pi Group, “Step” is the first dubbed Spanish TV program broadcast in France.

M6 has since acquired three further seasons of “Step” and two more Antena 3 hits: Spain’s top-rating drama, “Aqui no hay quien viva,” charting the sexual shenanigans in a block of apartments, and Globomedia’s “Mis adorables vecinos.”

“Step” has also been bought by RTL’s Vox TV in Germany and now plays on Mediaset’s Italia 1.

Last summer, U.S. production shingle Reveille optioned Telecinco family drama “The Serranos” for NBC.

The RTVE-broadcast “Cuentame como paso” (Remember When) sold to Mexico and Puerto Rico; Italian and Portuguese operators have optioned the format.

“Spanish series formats are undoubtedly in higher demand abroad,” says Globomedia’s international sales head, Pablo Guerenabarrena.

The large question is: Why hasn’t it happened before? Spanish-speaking Latin America would seem to be a sales slam-dunk for Spanish TV.

Yet many Latin Americans reject a Spanish accent as the language of an empire. They’re also discomfited by Spanish skeins’ broad language.

Notably, it’s RTVE series, which maintain a pubcaster’s linguistic decorum, which sell best to Latin America, argues RTVE sales director Eva Zalve.

Spain’s export growth certainly rolls off dominance at home. Per research company Corporacion Multimedia, 23 of the 30 most-seen shows through late December were local drama episodes.

That has a downside. “Producers still seek their main profits from domestic primetime. International business remains a top-up,” says Pi general manager Geraldine Gonard.

But “after years of trial and error, Spanish series have learnt how to connect with audiences,” says Bibi Gonzalez, a Corporacion Multimedia analyst.

Put that partly down to U.S.-style screenwriters workshops, pioneered by Globomedia.

Globalization may be telling, too. RTVE shows still have working class heroes struggling up the social ladder — hence their appeal in Latin America.

But demo-driven young adult webs Telecinco and Antena 3 are tapping into Euro youth audience tastes. Their series simply add large helpings of sex.

That may be a winning Spanish hallmark.