As more SVOD players enter the arena, the winds of change are sweeping through high-end drama production in Spain.

For local producers, no aspect of production looks set to be as fiercely contested as their retention of at least partial rights to the series they produce — rights that, in the past, were taken by Spanish broadcasters, unlike in key European TV markets such as France and the U.K.

Spanish producers used to receive a so-called industrial profit, a percentage of the budget and shared a variable slice of international sales revenues with the broadcaster. But some of Spain’s biggest and most adventurous producers are beginning to carve out rights corridors — often in international, sometimes in Spain — to build their companies’ asset values as public broadcasters and pay TV channels are becoming more receptive to alternative financing models.

Such arrangements present one solution to a current paradox: TV players are increasingly hard put to recoup on their fiction bets as audiences migrate to online viewership, but they have to meet a TV market demand for high-end programs, which require more ambitious investments.

“TV dramas are increasingly requiring bigger budgets; the way to obtain them is to source financing from other networks, producers or countries,” says Fernando López Puig, head of TV fiction at state-owned broadcaster TVE.

Currently on TVE’s La1 primetime, season three of adventure series “The Department of Time,” produced by Onza Ent., was pre-bought by Netflix, which came to the table with more financing resources, enhancing the series’ production values.

In another sign of new times, to develop high-budget historical drama project “Hernán Cortés,” TVE has partnered with Endemol Shine’s Diagonal TV, Telemundo in the U.S. and Mexico’s TV Azteca and BluePrint.

The impact on Spanish TV drama production of powerful newcomers — Netflix, HBO España and Telefonica’s Movistar Plus — puts pressure on other international channels to board local drama to set their channels apart.

Teaming with Globomedia, part of TV rights giant Mediapro Group, Fox Networks Group España is producing season three of women’s prison drama-thriller “Locked Up,” an international sales hit, successfully aired in Spain by Atresmedia.

Moving aggressively into high-profile international TV drama alliances, Mediapro co-produced Sky/HBO/Canal Plus hit miniseries “The Young Pope” and its sequel, “The New Pope.”

“We aim to maintain a certain control from both creative and production points of view. Co-financing with TV operators is the business model to follow,” says Mediapro head of content Javier Méndez.

Mediapro is building an ambitious international TV fiction network. It’s working with Finnish pubcaster YLE on “The Paradise,” co-developed by Ran Telem; Sweden’s Dramacorp with the Pastor brothers-developed “The Head”; and DirecTV Latin America with “El fútbol no es así,” with writer Eduardo Sacheri. Also part of the Mediapro group, Burman Office is producing Daniel Burman’s “Edha,” Netflix’s first original series in Argentina.

TVE’s new hit series “I’m Alive,” with showrunner Daniel Ecija, sees Mediapro as the format’s rights owner, while TVE exploits the finished series, with both sharing international distribution rights.

Telefonica pay TV company Movistar Plus announced last year it was plowing €70 million ($82.6 million) into a massive slate of premium scripted drama. Movistar Plus retains all rights on its seven original series confirmed to date.

Recent Movistar Plus moves, however, suggest a certain flexibility in the model. “Hierro,” a best project award winner at the Berlinale’s 2015 Co-Production Series market, is set up at Galicia’s Portocabo, which tapped financing commitment from Arte France and Lagardere’s Atlantique before Movistar Plus joined as a co-financier.

Per Alfonso Blanco, Portocabo founder, “If we pre-finance the project, TV operators don’t have to risk so much, but can be equally ambitious.”
“If producers were rights owners, their TV drama productions could benefit from tax advantages,” says Carlos Fernández, CEO of Barcelona-based mini-major the Filmax Group.

Arca Audiovisual, Filmax TV fiction division, produces series with strong international potential, such as the Spanish original of Fox’s “The Red Band Society” and Mediaset España’s 2017 hit thriller “I Know Who You Are,” both created by Pau Freixas.

The company is now in advanced talks with a Spanish broadcaster on black comedy “Welcome to the Family,” pre-acquired by a SVOD player, a business model that could bring “more safety and stability to the project from the very beginning,” Fernández says. This way, the industrial profit would be re-invested, increasing the series’ production budget.

On higher-budget series, private broadcasters Mediaset España and Atresmedia are opening up to new windows partnerships.

A co-producer in Brazilian TV giant Globo’s “Supermax,” ME has licensed the series to HBO España before it launches on ME’s free-to-air channel Cuatro, says fiction director Arantxa Ecija.

Alea Media, in which ME has a 40% stake, is co-developing “Patria,” based on a bestseller, with HBO España. It could well be HBO España’s first original series.

“Our track record puts us in an ideal position to board this kind of project,” Ecija says.

“Co-financing is an option when it comes to boarding bigger size projects, which otherwise would be very difficult to finance,” says Atresmedia head of fiction Sonia Martínez.

To produce big-budget period TV drama “The Cathedral of the Sea,” Atresmedia teamed with Diagonal, TVC and Netflix.

Released in 2013, period espionage thriller “The Time in Between” was fully-financed by Atresmedia, becoming a TV ratings hit in Spain, snagging massive international sales.

For “La Templanza,” another ambitious TV drama project, Atresmedia is now looking for international partners to co-finance. The project is based on a novel by “The Time in Between” author María Dueñas.