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Spanish TV Producers Look to Formats to Boost Bottom Line

Since the mid-1990s, Spanish dramas have blown U.S. shows out of the water on local free-to-air primetime TV. Now Spaniards are plunging into an ever-building format export market.

As a finished product, Spanish TV dramas already boast solid international presence, with Boomerang’s epic drama “The Time in Between” and Diagonal’s historical fiction “Isabel.” Both sold to over 75 countries, and Bambu’s period skeins “Gran Hotel” and “Velvet” were acquired by key international buyers such as Hulu and Netflix.
A recent phenomenon, TV adaptation right sales, particularly to the U.S, suggests a qualitative leap in terms of ambition.

To date, three Spanish drama formats have seen English-language remakes Stateside. Aired in 2014 on CW, sci-fi romance “Star-Crossed” was adapted by CBS Studios from an original idea by Madrid’s Isla Producciones. Also in 2014, Fox remade Filmax’s dramedy “Red Band Society.” More successfully, “The Mysteries of Laura,” now in its second season at NBC, is a Boomerang drama produced by Warner Bros. in the U.S.

Televisa USA is teaming with Lantica Media to produce an English-language “Gran Hotel,” and Lionsgate is working on a U.S. redo of “Velvet.” Thriller “Personal Motives,” which ABC Studios and Ellen Pompeo are developing, adapts a 2005 Boomerang hit, aired by Mediaset Espana’s Telecinco. More recently, former Fox Television Studios chief Emiliano Calemzuk optioned redo rights to RTVE’s sci-fi series “The Ministry of Time,” per Gonzalo Sagardia at Onza Partners.

“Apart from the U.K., we are the country that best reaches local audiences with its TV dramas,” says Bambu co-founder Ramon Campos. “This has not gone unnoticed for the American TV market.”

Option rights give Spanish rights holders $8,000-$15,000 and $50,000 for a a pilot episode. But the biz really takes off if a season is greenlit and the original producers tap returns from a U.S. version, including possible international/syndication revenues. A 13-episode season broadcast by a network could generate $600,000 for Spanish producers.

“We’ve earned more with other TV adaptations but U.S. remakes obviously open other markets,” says Ivan Diaz, Filmax international head, whose long-awaited “I Know Who You Are,” produced with Mediaset Espana was selected for MipDrama Screenings.

In general, “international sales are already generating an interesting account, not just prestige as they did before,” says Sonia Martinez, head of fiction at broadcaster Atresmedia.

Reportedly, flagship skein “Isabel” took in north of $1 million in international revenues through 2015. Above all, however, it helped to open up many American SVOD platforms to RTVE dramas, says Rafael Bardem, RTVE deputy director, programs/products sales. Televisa’s SVOD service Blim has just taken exclusive Latin American OTT rights on RTVE’s “The Ministry of Time.”

Cultural affinities turn Latin America and the increasingly bilingual U.S. into preferential markets for Spanish dramas.
“El hotel de los secretos,” based on “Gran Hotel,” made a solid debut late January on Univision. Also, Mexico-based Rodrigo Ordonez, co-founder of production company Room Service, picked up Latin American redo rights to “The Ministry of Time.”

Spanish free-to-air broadcasters receive 70% of local TV fiction formats’ international sales and 30% go to indie TV producers says Cesar Benitez, co-founder of Plano a Plano, which made Atresmedia’s comedy “Down Below” and Mediaset Espana’s thriller “El Principe,” Spain’s top primetime shows.

“We need the Spanish market situation to count for increasingly less in our business,” says Juan Jose Diaz, Boomerang senior manager. “This means developing business in Latin America.”

Acquired last year by France’s giant Lagardere Active, Boomerang is developing two TV fiction projects in Chile, one a nonstop daily-soap for Mega.
Grupo Secuoya has operations in Colombia, Chile and Peru and launches free-to-air channel Ten this month in Spain. The plan is to adapt hit Spanish series and co-produce dramas, says Secuoya’s head of international Jose Miguel Barrera.

Spain’s TV dramas are moving from local comedies to more universal subjects: Mediapro’s Globomedia and Bambu, for instance, plan separate Galicia-based drug traffic skeins, respectively “Oeste” and “Farina,” latter for Atresmedia.

Atresmedia already teams with Globomedia on psychological thriller “Pulsaciones,” and, with Bambu, plumbs political corruption in “La Embajada”; Mediapro’s 100 Balas is prepping the political comedy “Vota Juan.”

“TV fiction has become the new manna,” says Javier Mendez, head of content at Mediapro, who’s teaming with HBO, Sky and Canal Plus on high-end series “The Young Pope,” starring Jude Law.

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