Rev growth looks like child’s play

RTVE can produce potent assets by right mix of culture, commerce right

MADRID — A flaxen-haired tyke, an eye-patched pirate and a bespectacled witch don’t necessarily sound like shoo-ins for commercial success these days.

But these Muppet-like puppets for moppets, nicknamed “Los Lunnis,” have developed into a children’s TV franchise that is currently RTVE’s biggest moneyspinner abroad.

Few would have imagined this at the time of “Los Lunnis’ ” invention: They were created to sing a ditty encouraging Spanish tykes to go to bed.

“Los Lunnis” is an example of how RTVE, when it gets the mix of culture and commerce right, can produce some potent assets.

RTVE needs to exploit such assets to flourish in the ever-changing Spanish TV market, says Juan Buhigas, chief exec of RTVE Comercial. “Thirty years ago, TVE had a large production capacity and highly competitive productions. Budgets are more limited now,” he says.

“To turn RTVE around, we have to grow other lines of business aside from advertising, lines that now represent a small percent of turnover, but can expand in the future via Internet, cellular phones and digital exploitation,” he adds.

Which is where the 100% RTVE-owned “The Lunnis” comes in. “We develop and control completely what we call the ‘Lunnis Universe,’ ” explains Eva Zalve, RTVE director of sales and business affairs.

“In 2005, ‘The Lunnis’ were the No. 1-selling license in Spain, bigger than any Disney product. We want to be talking about the Lunnis in 10 years time,” Zalve says.

Landmarks in the Lunnis universe include 200 episodes, 13-16 minutes long; nearly 500 products launched since spring 2004, including encyclopedias, games, records, DVDs, toys, and clothes; and TV specials, such as a Lunnis “Don Quixote” and an upcoming feature. RTVE has launched news channel Telelunnis; a Lunnis magazine, the first monthly for preschoolers; and interactive PC products.

“It’s the first tool Spanish children can use to learn to read, write, play games and learn songs with characters from their own culture,” Zalve says.

The Lunnis have a Sony record deal. Their first record topped the charts on the day of its release.

RTVE, however, is not just in the business of selling, but also in the business of selling the rights to sell: It has merchandising deals with Planeta D’Agostini, Famosa, Visor, Columbia and Sony.

As for future distribution outlets such as DTT and mobile phones, Buhigas says it’s a wait-and-see approach.

“DTT’s just starting here in Spain and it has its price, and no significant audience. One can’t risk being a pioneer,” he explains. “Right now the only things to transmit are news, special events and sports highlights.”

While the future waits, RTVE exploits its past, and has launched other initiatives:

  • Exploiting library product, RTVE will bow a 50th-anniversary DVD collection chronicling the history of Spain.

  • RTVE is collaborating with Spain’s Cervantes Institute on an official Spanish course for university entry. “We’ll handle the audiovisual, they’ll supply the content,” Zalve explains.

  • RTVE is once more picking up international rights on Spanish films, beginning with Ventura Pons’ sexually charged “Wounded Animals.”

  • RTVE provides DVD backup material, gleaned from TVE appearances, for music CDs and DVDs.