Sexta backs Spanish film biz

Broadcaster shares '3 Steps' TV rights with A3

MADRID — Spanish broadcaster LaSexta has began to finance Spanish movie production.

In its first incursion, marking a significant departure for the web, Sexta has taken free-to-air TV rights to “3 metros sobre el cielo” (Three Steps Over Heaven), a big-screen makeover of Italian Federico Moccia’s same title best-selling novel.

Move comes after the approval in March of Spain’s new General Audiovisual Law, which extends to most Spanish private TV operators the obligation to invest 3% of their annual revenues in European — read mainly Spanish – feature films.

Sexta’s film investment quota kicks off in 2011.

It will mean a cash injection for the year of E7.5 million ($9.7 million)-$11.7 million, calculated against company’s 2010 revenues, which Sexta CEO Jose Miguel Contreras estimates between $325 million-$390 million.

Sexta will share Spanish free-to-air rights with web Antena 3, with A3 managing first, third and fifth runs, and LaSexta optioning second, fourth and sixth.

“Given the new fragmentation of the Spanish TV market, agreements between companies to share TV contents rights are absolutely essential,” Contreras said.

Sexta is studying investing in more Spanish feature film projects, but to date hasn’t inked any more buys, Contreras added.

Launched in March 2006, Sexta is owned by Mexican media heavyweight Televisa plus Spanish film and TV giant Imagina, a conglom that includes film producer Mediapro and top Spanish TV fiction production house Globomedia.

Spain’s established private broadcasters are already powerhouses in local film production, co-producing and pre-buying via consolidated movie shingles Antena 3 Films and Telecinco Cinema.

“As a channel owned by producers, we will be backing producers as a distribution window, but we don’t have production ambitions,” Contreras said.

Helmed by Fernando Gonzalez Molina (“Brain Drain”) and written by Ramon Salazar (“Stones”), teen romancer “Steps” toplines Mario Casas (“Brain Drain”) and Maria Valverde (“King of the Hill”). Zeta Audiovisual, Antena 3 Films and Cangrejo Films produce.

Now in post, Warner Bros. releases the film in Spanish theaters Dec 3.