TVC looks overseas for sales help

Pubcaster reaches out to foreign markets

Brazilian soccer star Ronaldinho tutors a circle of dumbstruck kids on how to penetrate a goalkeeper’s mind when taking a penalty kick.

Now a lot more kids can look on.

Docu series “Barca’s Class,” in which Barcelona soccer club players reveal hallmark tricks, has been sold by Barcelona pubcaster TVC to GA&A for Italy and Al-Jazeera for Arab territories.

The sales underscore a new international thrust at TVC, commonly regarded as Spain’s most modern pubcaster.

Courting foreign markets, TVC is making a virtue out of a necessity.

Even five years ago, TVC was sitting pretty. It was widely respected, commanded large home audiences, and could look to both state coin and advertising to cover costs. And Spain’s TV market was booming.

That was then.

“For Spanish broadcasters, costs are shooting up, and audiences are going down. The idea of recouping budget on a single domestic transmission is now suicidal. Foreign sales have become crucial,” says Eduardo Garcia Matilla, prexy of Corporacion Multimedia, a research company.

The launch of new broadcasters Cuatro and La Sexta, plus multichannel TV — up from a 5.1% market share in 2003-04 to 21.4% last season — is whammying incumbent broadcasters.

Still Spain’s most popular regional broadcaster, TVC’s share plunged from 20.1% in 2003-04 to 17.0% last season.

Sales are still piecemeal. But their size and number are growing, and new markets are opening.

“TV3 has decided to put its back behind international sales,” says TVC sales head Oriol Baquer. “For the first time, we’ve penetrated Eastern Europe and U.S. nontheatrical,” he adds.

Educational video producer-distributor U.S. Filmideas has taken Stateside rights on “Draw Me a Story,” in which an adult relates a dramatized tale to a child.

“Draw” has also been purchased by pubcaster Bosnia-Herzegovina’s BHR. Along with Poland’s Canal Plus and Romania’s TVR, it’s a regular buyer of TVC documentaries.

Among bigger deals, Mexican cabler Multivision picked up an 18-title TV movie package, including Enrich Folch’s time travel romantic comedy “Tempus Fugit,” and Eduard Cortes’ role-play thriller “The Cave.”

“Prices aren’t high in Eastern Europe, but we’re selling a considerable number of programming hours,” Baquer says.

“There are a larger number of slots opening up for certain productions,” he adds.

“TVC is a small broadcaster. Its management faces large political demands. But the first step in exporting is simply to produce quality products. They’re doing some things pretty well,” says one analyst.

TVC has several things going for it.

One is its strong documentary tradition. It produces high-quality docu specs, particularly investigative historical programs, which would be unimaginable for many regional pubcasters. Its CBS-style weekly newsmag “30 Minutes” has won international prizes.

Oscar-nommed docu feature “Balseros” was helmed by two former TVC journalists, Carlos Bosch and Josep Domenech.

TVC can also tap Catalan customs, however unusual. “Mushroom Hunters,” TVC’s highly rated docu-reality series, which tracks ordinary Catalans searching for mushrooms, has been picked up by Switzerland’s TVSR.

Japan’s Cartoon Network has bought toon series “Capelito,” about a young, enterprising mushroom.

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