Spain: Dramas fill b’casters’ pipeline

MADRID — Local fiction dominates Spanish primetime, but U.S. dramas are gaining traction, partly due to two new analog terrestial broadcasters: Cuatro and La Sexta.

In a TV market where soccer is king, Spanish dramas are the strongest alternative. Antena 3’s neighbors comedy “Aqui no hay quien viva” (37% aud share) had more entries in the top 30 most-watched shows of 2005 than any other, which included family drama “The Serranos” (31%), working-class comedy “Aida” (30%) from Telecinco, and TVE-1’s 1970s-set “Cuentame como paso” (Remember When, 27%).

Cuatro and Sexta’s need to fill its programming pipelines has come in the form of U.S. dramas.

Launching Nov. 7, Sogecable’s Cuatro’s has covered 23% of its schedule with international — mainly Stateside — series. In January it confirmed the acquisition of 18 new Yank skeins for 2006, including “House” and “The Closer.”

Sexta has picked up a dozen U.S. series, such as “The Sopranos,” “Commander in Chief,” “Surface” and “The Office.” Last year’s primetime boasted “CSI,” a money-minting franchise for Telecinco; Antena 3’s “Without a Trace” and “The Simpsons”; and TVE-1’s improving “Desperate Housewives,” proving that U.S. fiction is proving profitable for established webs.

Per Corporacion Multimedia, international series occupied 8% of airtime on Spain’s main free-to-air webs in 2004. In 2005 that figure rose to 11%.

“Feature films are very costly and difficult to amortize, but U.S. series guarantee a minimum audience share at a relatively low cost,” says Ghislain Barrois, Telecinco’s head of acquisitions.

At Mip, Telecinco will search more aggressively than at past confabs for TV movies, miniseries and series.

“We’ll continue looking for not only U.S. but also European and Latin American/Latino productions. Their production levels right now are extraordinary,” says Mercedes Gamero, Antena 3 deputy director of acquisitions and sales.

A3’s U.S. recent acquisitions include “Numbers” plus new seasons of “Without a Trace” and “The 4400.”

Top 3 Shows

1. “Aqui no hay quien viva,” Antena 3

2. “The Serranos,” Telecinco

3. “Remember When,” TVE-1