Telefonica’s Movistar Plus Flexes Its Financing Muscle on Premium TV Series Production

Spanish telco's flagship project, Alberto Rodríguez's historical TV thriller 'La peste,' rolls from Feb. 6 in over 130 locations in Andalusia and Extremadura. southern Spain

La Peste, cast and key creatives

Movistar Plus, the pay-TV arm of Spanish telco giant Telefonica, underscored Tuesday in Seville its fiction production ambitions and financing muscle, presenting the upcoming shoot of its first flagship original series, Alberto Rodriguez’s historical thriller “La peste.”

“La peste” leads Movistar Plus’ plans of ploughing €70 million ($77 million) into original series this year, which propels the Spanish paybox into the top division of European premium TV fiction players.

“Movistar Plus will soon become the leading [premium] original content hub in Spanish,” said Luis Miguel Gilpérez, Telefonica España CEO.

Just on “La peste,” a six-episode, 50-minute mini-series, Movistar investment reaches $11 million, with an average $1.8 million budget per episode, a milestone figure for Spain’s TV fiction sector – one episode of a high-end TV series for the local free-to-air TV market costs about $660,000.

“The budget for ‘La Peste’ is in line with the most successful TV series produced in similar European countries,” said Matteo Marchello, an analyst at IHS Markit.

“The first season of ‘Gomorrah’ was produced by Sky Italia on an average budget slightly above €1 million [$1.1 million] per episode. On the other hand, the budget necessary to produce all the eight episodes of the German ‘Deutschland 83’ was close to €8 million [$8.5 million]. ‘La peste’ is absolutely in line with that,” Marchello said.

“La peste” “sets the tone for the ambition of Movistar Plus when it comes to original drama production. We are not just producing one-or-two series each year but ten in 2018, an unprecedented production effort across all pay-per-view hubs,” said Domingo Corral, Movistar Plus original production director.

“We have decided to boost and revitalize an audiovisual industry that has been hard hit by the crisis. We will hire the top national talent to produce drama nationally with cinema-level production standards,” Gilpérez added.

Original series production gives Movistar Plus a competitive advantage facing global OTT players that already operate in Spain. To date, Netflix, HBO España and Amazon Prime have ordered only one local TV series project, the still officially untitled 1920s set-TV drama that Ramón Campos’ Bambú is producing for Netflix.

With 3.7 million subscribers and a 66% market share, Movistar Plus clearly dominates Spanish pay-TV market. Original series production sets Movistar Plus apart for clients, boosting its pay-TV business and giving added value to Movistar Plus Fusion content-fibre optic broadband offer.

“Not all of us play in the same league. We are not a vertical catalogue of films and series. We are a player combining the best content and the best connectivity, the best technical functionality and the finest client knowledge– four features no competitor can meet,” Gilpérez said.

Produced by José Antonio Félez at Atípica Films, “La peste” will roll from Feb. 6 for 18 weeks in 130 locations in Andalusia and Extremadura, directed by “Smoke & Mirrors” and “Marshland” director Alberto Rodríguez.

Set in the city of Seville in the 16th century, in the midst of a terrible bubonic plague, the series follows Mateo, an heretic that must solve a number of satanic crimes.

Series’ ensemble cast, announced at the Seville event, includes actor-director Paco León (“Kiki, Love to Love,” “Aida”), Pablo Molinero (“Terrados”), Manolo Solo (“Marshland”), Sergio Castellanos (“Toledo”) and Patricia López (“The Invisible Guardian”).

“La peste” is scheduled to premiere on Movistar Series in December; Alberto and Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo cop thriller series “La zona,” Enrique López-Lavigne-produced comedy “Shame,” plus an undisclosed title, will be available from September.

In total, Movistar Plus is working on 20 ongoing TV fiction projects, in varying development and production stages, including David Trueba’s new delivery of “Qué fue de Jorge Sanz,” a pioneering Spanish pay-TV series, currently in post-production; Cesc Gay’s “Félix,” Enrique Urbizu’s “Gigantes,” and Mar Coll’s “Carta al padre,” all three in pre-production; Fernando González-Molina’s “Dime quién soy” is at script stage.