Mediaset España, Spain’s No. 1 broadcast network, and Filmax, one of its top film-TV producers, have rolled out first sales on “I Know Who You Are,” a crime drama directed by Pau Freitas, a writer-director on “The Red Band Society,” one of the highest-profile of Spanish TV series this decade.
The licensing deals form part of a push into international sales by Mediaset España as it seeks to grow additional revenue outside its hugely successful core advertising business which drives one of the highest operating profit margins in Europe: 26% through September last year.
“I Know Who You Are” also shows the network, controlled by Italy’s Mediaset, linking to some of Spain’s iconic movie production houses: Filmax, the driving force behind modern genre production in Spain (“[REC]”), and Mod Producciones, co-producers of Mediaset España’s four-part period miniseries, “Hidden Behind Her Eyes” and whose heads – Fernando Bovaira and Simon de Santiago – produced Alejandro Amenabar’s “The Others” and “Agora” and Alejandro Gonzalez-Iñarritu’s “Biutiful.”
Selected among 12 series for last April’s inaugural MipDrama Screenings, “I Know Who You Are” turns on a charismatic university rector and top attorney suspected of murdering his own niece when she disappears after a car accident which leaves him claiming near total amnesia. Fast-paced, but intricately plotted, with each episode beginning with a flashback, “I Know Who You Are” talks about “justice, lawyers, power and how power interferes in relationships,” said Filmax head of international, Ivan Diaz. Mediaset España produced a pilot for the first season, the second season went into production before the first had even aired, said Barrois.
In first sales, Mediaset España and Filmax International, the overseas sales arm of the Spanish production-distribution house, have closed the U.K. (BBC4, via distributor Arrow Films), German-speaking Europe (SquareOne Ent,), French-speaking Europe (Lagardere’s Demd Production), Latin America (Televisa’s OTT platform Blim), Israel (YES network), Poland (Ale Kino, part of Canal Plus Group Poland) and Turkey (Sinema TV).
Scripted series form “part of Mediaset Espana’s DNA,” said Ghislain Barrois, CEO of Telecinco Cinema, who was appointed last May as head of ME’s newly-created division of film, sales, rights acquisitions and distribution.
Mediaset España has seen past success selling content abroad, whether series, documentaries or reality shows. Licensed as a format to near-15 territories, “Marriage Scenes” has run for eight years in access primetime on M6, France’s second-biggest TV network. Sold to Univision for the U.S. Hispanic market, undercover cop thriller “El Principe” has closed 35 countries, the latest Poland.
With non-scripted fare – “The Voice.” “Big Brother” – allowing ME’s Telecinco to remain the most-watched TV channel in Spain, scripted production is used sparingly. That said, international sales revenues increased 25%-35% in 2016, said Silvia Cotino, Mediaset España sales executive.
Two factors drive new sales opportunities for Mediaset España content, Barrios argued. “The quality of product produced in Spain, not only by Mediaset España but in general, has increased dramatically over the last few years. Either that happens, or the show doesn’t perform. It’s as simple as that,” he said.
Also, “the market no longer consumes just U.S. series,” Barrois added, citing Mediaset España’s pickup of Spanish free-to-air rights to six-part procedural “Les Temoins” (“Witnesses”), its first French series acquisition in 20 years.
Combined, the two factors represent “a great business opportunity for us that we’re taking very seriously,” he added.
Deals to date on “I Know Who You Are” include the readymade series in all cases, plus the format for France and Germany. Accounting for some 30% of content revenues, scripted format sales are also “exploding,” Ghislain added.
Non-scripted format sales have just begun with a sale to new Mexican broadcast network Imagem Television of makeover show “Cambiáme” (“Make Me Over”). Mediaset España is now working with producers in Latin America to reversion its formats across the region, Cotino said.
The OTT market in Latin America has opened up with the launch of Televisa’s Blim last February and the growth of America Movil’s Claro Video. Growing its brand as a series provider, Mediaset España is also working more with free-to-air broadcaster buyers such as Argentina’s Telefe and Canal 13 in Chile, Cotino said.
In fiction, Mediaset still faces two large challenges. One is to make series for broad audiences but still be original. Its newest shows, minis “Hidden Behind Her Eyes” and “Cain’s Father,” for which NATPE will be their first major market, all break new ground, treating subjects rarely or never treated in primetime TV, stories based on novels inspired by true events which are barely credible.
Directed by Salvador Calvo, whose “Stolen Kids” has sold to 44 territories, “Hidden Behind Her Eyes” depicts a great love affair against the background of the society dictator Francisco Franco’s Civil War victory created – not that of food queue and rationing but rather the opulence of the ultra-rich who governed Spain according to neo-Victorian mores and hypocrisy. Narrating the adultery between Ramon Serrano Suñer, Franco’s fascist brother-in-law and Spanish high-society beauty, Sonsoles de Icazu, an affair which blighted his career, her reputation and the life of their daughter, it captures the extraordinary and often under-appreciated historical patrimony of Spain from the Edwardian pomp of the Casino de Madrid gentleman’s club to the mock palaces and castles spangling the hinterland hills of Belle Epoque resort San Sebastian. Such architectural glory has been the stock-in-trade of French TV fiction made with an international market half-in-mind: Think “Versailles.” It has rarely been attempted in a post-war context in Spain.
Also helmed by Calvo, “Cain’s Father,” which will likewise be presented to buyers at NATPE, is hailed as the first primetime TV fiction to tackle the dirty war between Spain’s Civil Guard and ETA terrorists. It does so through the story of a Civil Guard lieutenant (Quim Gutierrez, “The Hidden Face”) who is dispatched to San Sebastian’s Intxaurrondo barracks, the Civil Guard H.Q. in the Basque province of Guipuzcoa which bore the brunt of ETA attacks. There he has a love affair with a local lass (Aura Garrido, “The Department of Time”) who owns the pension where he puts up in San Sebastian.