Spain’s Voz Audiovisual builds buzz

'Missing,' 'Padre Casares' both popular

LA CORUNA, Galicia — Based not in media centers Madrid or Barcelona but in Galicia’s biggest seaport, La Coruna, Voz Audiovisual might not seem like a Spanish TV giant.

But the TV division of conglom Corp. Voz de Galicia, is rapidly emerging as a fiction powerhouse and talent center for young television scribes.

“Missing,” which won the European drama series prize at June’s Monte Carlo TV Festival, was created by Voz for producer Madrid’s Gang. Spain’s top-rated fall rookieraised the bar on local TV drama with a telling mix of kitchen-sink realism and plush “CSI”-ish procedurals.

Meanwhile up in Voz’s Galician stronghold, pubcaster TVG aired “Padre Casares,” a comedy about a modernizing priest in a stick-in-the-mud village, that has scored exceptional 30%-plus shares over the 2007-08 season.

A big fish in a small pond — Galicia’s population’s 2.8 million, Spain’s 44 million — Voz is leveraging its regional  base to swim in larger seas.

“Our strategy’s to look after our basic client, which is Galicia, making hit series here, so that national TV stations take notice,” Voz Audiovisual CEO Carlos Carballo says.

Regional first-runs are the nearest the Spanish TV industry gets to producing pilots. Regional ratingstake on greater importance as national webs lose share  to DTT.

Voz, says Carballo, is in talks for a national TV format redo of “Casares,” plus another regional version.

And Voz has just pacted with TVG on a new series, to air starting in 2009: “Matalobos,” a family saga with a narco-trade background.

Voz forecasts $1.6 million profits this year, but is realistic concerning its ability to expand.

“We can’t maintain profits from just one series in Galicia,” Carballo says. “If we don’t make series that export, we’ll lose our talent base.” Indeed,Voz has already lost “Casares” scribe and “Missing” showrunner Ramos Campos, who’s hung his own shingle in Madrid.

So, hoping to hold on to its talent while adding international muscle, Voz will launch its first TV channel, VTV9, hoping to give young talent a further outlet for its ambitions and leveraging its strength in local news to buy programming with a broader reach.

Backed by a five-year E70 million ($102.9 million),  budget, and planning a 2010 bow, the DTT Galicin regional feed for Galicia will target upscale urban auds. Voz Audiovisual will produce for VTV9.

Teaming with other regional DTT networks in Spain, Voz has created regional consortium Asodal to exchange news, and buy joint programming internationally, Carballo says.