As streaming video on demand sweeps the world, the number of new TV operators in Spain looking for drama has risen sharply, led by the unprecedented bet of Telefonica paybox Movistar Plus on original series production.

Free-to-air broadcasters Atresmedia, Mediaset España and state-owned RTVE — the longtime driving forces of Spain’s TV fiction industry — now have a weighty rival.

Meanwhile, Spain’s limited size as a TV market is encouraging some producers, most prominently the giant Imagina-Mediapro — a partner on HBO’s drama “The Young Pope” — to seal co-production alliances with international players.

Bringing to the table a €70 million ($75 million) annual investment in original TV fiction, Movistar Plus is launching its first four original series in October. They are “La Zona,” from the Sanchez-Cabezudo brothers, and Alberto Rodríguez’s “La Peste,” both thrillers; melodrama “Velvet Colección”; and Enrique Lopez-Lavigne’s comedy “Verguenza.” Some 10 new releases will arrive in 2018.

Netflix has also commissioned its first original TV skein in Spain, “Las Chicas del cable,” from Bambú, and co-produces “La Catedral del mar” with Atresmedia and EndemolShine’s Diagonal. HBO España and Amazon Prime Video, both launched last fall in Spain, will most likely expand the original-series producers’ club in the country.

“There are more operators demanding content. It’s great news,” says Javier Mendez, head of content at Mediapro.

“The market has revolutionized. Suddenly, we have gone from only three possible partners to have more operators than producers,” says Bambú co-founder Ramon Campos.

An increasingly competitive market is opening to new production models. With “Velvet Colección,” Movistar Plus adds a twist, backing 10 new 50-minute episodes spun off from Atresmedia-Bambú’s hit series “Velvet,” which nabbed a spectacular 4.3 million viewers and 26% audience share with its Dec. 21 farewell episode that aired on free-to-air net Antena 3.

“‘Velvet’ created a world with multiple characters and plots that can be taken further,” says Domingo Corral, Movistar Plus original production director. “With ‘Velvet Colección,’ we’ll target an audience profile which maybe we haven’t covered with other series.”

Innovative deals for content are key to the TV landscape. This year’s biggest new dramas in primetime broadcast, Mediaset España’s “I Know Who You Are” and Atresmedia’s “Lifeline,” are sophisticated thrillers with theatrical-film quality production.

“[In terms of TV drama production], we are walking the same path as pay TV operators in some ways,” says Atresmedia fiction head, Sonia Martínez.
“Broadcasters are searching for original voices that can work within industry requirements,” notes Aitor Gabilondo, “El Príncipe” co-creator.

Teaming with Mediaset España, Gabilondo launched Alea Media, with early TV projects “Patria,” about two Basque families’ rivalry set against ETA terrorism, and “Vivir sin permiso,” about the tribulations of a drug lord diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Atresmedia’s new shows include thriller “Money Heist”; Diagonal’s thriller “Matadero”; and, from Bambú, war drama “Tiempos de guerra” and Galicia-set drug trade fiction “Fariña.”

Though Mediapro’s “Lifeline,” averaging a 13% share, and Filmax’s “I Know Who You Are” (15.8%), didn’t reach figures hit by more-established primetime hits such as Atresmedia’s comedy “Allí abajo” (23.7%), both are scoring strong international deals.

“Lifeline” was acquired by streaming service Walter Presents in the U.S. and the U.K.; Filmax Intl. and Mediaset España sold “I Know Who You Are” to the U.K. (BBC4), Germany (SquareOne) and France (Lagardere’s DEMD).

“International sales have ceased to be a secondary aim, but working well in our channel continues as top objective,” Martínez says.

In general, audience results for new TV drama aren’t so spectacular this season. After standout hits by historical fiction series such as “Isabel,” RTVE’s most recent attempts at the genre, mini-series “Queens” (scoring a 7.4% share average) and 11th century skein “Santiago, the Path’s End” (an 8.4% share average), have performed less robustly.

RTVE is re-branding its TV fiction production, targeting younger audiences with comedy “iFamily” (an 8% share average) and upcoming Plano a Plano’s daily soap “Servir y proteger.”

One way to strengthen competitiveness is via international co-production, with the most ambitious moves coming from Mediapro. Spain’s top rights broker, Mediapro is extending its know-how in local film and TV drama to international TV content, tapping creative talent from around the world.

“We bet on good stories with international interest, regardless of where they come from,” says Méndez.

After acquiring a stake in February in Argentine Daniel Burman’s Burman Office (Globo’s “Supermax,” Netflix’s “Edha”), their early joint projects include true-life spy story “IOSI El espía arrepentido” and comedy “Stroke.”

With DirecTV Latin America, Mediapro is co-developing Spanish soccer-set crime series “El fútbol no es así,” written by Eduardo Sacheri (“The Secret in Their Eyes”).

With Finnish broadcaster YLE, it has teamed on “The Paradise,” a Mediterranean noir co-developed by “Homeland’s” Ran Telem, Mediapro head of international development.

“New VOD services launched by top Latin American free-to-air players are encouraging more points-in-common for co-production,” says Martínez, who’s talking to international partners to co-produce “La templanza,” by author Maria Dueñas (“The Time in Between”).

Spain’s Secuoya, partnering with Pablo and Juan Larrain at Chile’s Fabula TV, is working on two high-level series about women, “Ni una menos” and “Reinas.”
One of Spain’s most sought-after TV producers, Bambú has inked a two-year development pact with giant Televisa to produce two TV series in Mexico.

Spanish TV highlights at MIP:

Cathedral of the Sea (Diagonal, Netflix, EndemolShine Intl.) Miniseries adapting a Spanish bestseller in which vengeance, love and treachery intertwine during the construction of Barcelona’s stunning 14th century Santa Maria del Mar church. Also backed by the Atresmedia Group.

Cleo & Cuquin (Televisa, Anima Kitchent, MAI, Select Vision) Animated comedy series for pre-schoolers is inspired by Spain’s “Telerin Family,” a cartoon show that ran for more than a decade in the 1960s-70s.

Crush (Imagina Intl. Sales) Game show is the first non-scripted format from Mediapro since the appointment of Ran Telem as head of international content development. Sold to the U.S., France, Italy, Benelux.

Forgive Me God (Mediaset España) Part of Mediaset España’s push into event series. Paz Vega plays a nun battling delinquency and the drug trade in an eight-part miniseries.

I Know Who You Are (Filmax/Mediaset España) Selected for the first MipDrama Screenings in 2016, and produced by Filmax, series is an intricately plotted, fast-paced thriller about a charismatic university lecturer’s possible incrimination in his niece’s murder. Early international sales have been strong, including to BBC4.

Lifeline (IIS, Atresmedia) The latest series from Mediapro’s Globomedia, a psychological thriller about a man investigating his heart donor’s death. Available in the U.S. and U.K. by streaming service Walter Presents.

Lucky Fred (Imira) Shingle, owned by India’s Toonz Media Group, brings to MipTV season two of this comedy adventure, whose first season sold to 165 territories. Co-produced with Ireland’s Telegael.

La Peste (Movistar Plus) A flagship original series from Alberto Rodriguez and Atipica Films (“Marshland”), it’s a thriller set in a 16th century Seville gripped by bubonic plague.

Money Heist (Atresmedia) The latest from “Locked Up” showrunner Alex Viña and co-director Jesus Colmenar is a one-season money-mint robbery thriller. In production.

Omega (Mediaset España) A theatrical docu-feature on the late, great Enrique Moriente while he was working on “Omega,” a record that melded Moriente’s own flamenco with rock, Leonard Cohen’s music and Frederico Lorca’s poetry.

Pio Rocks! (RaiCom, Planeta Junior) Produced by RaiCom, DQ Entertainment, Gruppo Alcuni and Spain’s Planeta Junior, the series follows the adventures of Pio at Highnote High. Based on internet phenom Pulcino Pio.

Plastic Sea (Boomerang/Atresmedia) A police sergeant investigates the murder of a mayor’s daughter in this Spanish noir. Produced by Lagardere’s Boomerang, it’s already an audience (20% share) and critical hit with two complete seasons.

Queens (pictured, RTVE) Its biggest fiction series for MipTV, the story of the deadly rivalry between Mary, Queen of Scots, and Elizabeth I. Shot in English on locations in Scotland and Spain; advanced talks for sales to Portugal and Greece.

Six Sisters (IIS/RTVE) High-society sibling battle to save their family’s textile factory and reputations in 1913 Madrid.

The Slaying of the Basque Whalers (Old Port, Seylan Fil, Pastnorth, Extrapictures) A doc about the massacre of Basque whalers after they shipwrecked in Iceland in 1615.

La Zona (Movistar Plus) A cop thriller set in a society coming to terms with a nuclear catastrophe partners Movistar Plus with Alberto and Jorge Sanchez-Cabezudo, whose “Crematorium” was one of Spain’s first premium TV series.

Compiled by John Hopewell and Emilio Mayorga