MADRID — What would Spanish TV webheads like for Christmas? A package of hot U.S. series from Hollywood. And most webs aren’t waiting for Santa to show up with the goods.
Startup Cuatro has closed on “Ugly Betty” and family sudser “Brothers and Sisters,” part of a major Disney series package. Cuatro’s other Disney goodies include thriller “Day Break” and the J.J. Abrams-produced “Six Degrees.”
La Sexta, another new net, is in advanced talks on Fox series, having bought a bundle of dramas in 2006, Sexta CEO Jose Miguel Contreras tells Variety.
Warner Bros. Intl. TV is negotiating a renewal of its longstanding multiyear deal with pubcaster RTVE.
Meanwhile Spain’s regional webs and RTVE are tussling over “Heroes,” from NBC U.
So here’s one prediction that seems a slam-dunk:
Don’t expect many Spanish buys on U.S. series at the National Assn. of Television Program Executives confab and mart, which kicks off Jan. 15 in Las Vegas. Spain will have pretty well sold out.
This feeding frenzy has hiked prices. In 2005, U.S. skeins sold to Spain for $40,000-$50,000 a seg. Now, the tab’s more like $50,000-$80,000.
As recently as early last year, U.S. series, excepting “CSI” and “The Simpsons,” were viewed as usually minority or off-primetime fare.
But “House,” which has aired on Cuatro since February, has more than doubled the web’s share.
Its second season averaged 15% of the available audience and broke in U.S. drama as hip, must-see programming for younger, upscale viewers. New U.S. skeins are now fair game for any broadcasters, as recent buys emphasize.
And the growing media furor over “House,” “Prison Break” and “Grey’s Anatomy” also underscores that, in changing times, Spain’s independent TV industry just does not have the muscle to morph like Hollywood.
Over 2006, five homegrown series still ranked in full-season weekly top 10s: Telecinco’s “Hospital Central,” “The Serranos,” “The Police Commissioner” and “Aida” plus RTVE’s “Remember When.”
Most have been running for years. The youngest, “Aida,” is 2 years old, but even that is a spinoff from “Seven Lives,” which aired 1999-2006.
“Audiences and consumer habits are changing. Yet Spanish broadcasters are still squeezing the last drops from a style of series that were ’90s hits,” carps Eduardo Garcia-Matilla, prexy of research company Multimedia Corp.
“U.S. drama producers are far more tapped into change and can experiment far more, given they have more coin to invest, bowing multiple productions,” he adds.
Telecinco is prepping “La que se avecina,” a follow-up to Spanish smash-hit neighbors comedy “Aqui no hay quien viva.”
On Dec. 24, Antena 3 was due to bow bungling-workers laffer “Manolo & Benito Corporeision.”
If these don’t catch fire, expect more remakes — following on Telecinco’s share-grabbing “Ugly Betty” redo “Yo soy Bea” and European hit “Camera Cafe.”