International Newswire: Telefonica Powers Up As Contents Player

Telefonica embraces soccer; Nordisk Film & TV Fond's record funding for Atlantic Crossing’; Euro TV production; Globo Sky Italia sales

Cristiano Ronaldo and MarceloReal Madrid vs Paris Saint-Germain, Spain - 14 Feb 2018Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (L) celebrates with his teammate Marcelo (R) after scoring the 1-1 equalizer from the penalty spot during the UEFA Champions League round of 16, first leg soccer match between Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, 14 February 2018.

Never say never again. For months, executives at Spain’s Telefonica have been questioning the cost of Spanish LaLiga soccer rights, plus those to UEFA Champions League and Europa League matches: which hasn’t stopped it scooping this week Spanish rights both tournaments, for the 2019-22 seasons.

The LaLiga deal comes just a month after Movistar + signed up Netflix for carriage in Spain and Latin America. Movistar + has now released seven original series, and announced late last month its first original movie, Alejandro Amenabar’s “Mientras sure la guerra,” marking the most energetic push into scripted content of any telecom in Europe.

When it comes to entertainment, it looks like Telefonica wants it all. It has paid €980 million ($1.1 billion) for each new LaLiga season in the deal, €360 million ($420 million) each Champions League and Europa League season, a net cost “up just 5%” on the 2018-19 season, it said in a statement Friday.  The deal comes as the June auction of Premiere League broadcast rights, at a total £1.55 billion ($2.0 billion), was about 10% down on the prior auction, and Italy’s Serie A, its top football league, managed to extract from Sky Italia and Perform a combined €973 million, 2% less than for 2015-18, for 2018-21 league rights, according to Enders Analysis.

But this isn’t just about soccer. Telefonica’s Laliga and Champions deal marks it out, with Sky Italia, as Southern Europe’s key and most aggressive pay TV player. Telefonica is now targeting “the upper end on the market,” aiming to drive average revenue from not just pay TV but also triple play subscribers, building a mass subscriber base, said François Godard, at Enders Analysis. “This way it will become harder for not only Vodafone but also for Amazon or eventually Apple to build alternatives ecosystems,” he added. They will have to go through Telefonica.


One way to flag one of the biggest Nordic series as it moves towards production: the Nordisk Film & TV Fond has just announced its largest production grant ever, given to the eight-part TV series “Atlantic Crossing” – NOK 5 million ($612,000). Show-run by Alexander Eik (“Varg Veum”) and a true event-based story of how Norwegian Crown Princess Martha escaped from the Nazi occupied country and became an influential voice at the White House as President Franklin D. Roosevelt deliberated entering WWII, “Atlantic Crossing” is not only internationally distributed by Beta Film but backed by the five Nordic public broadcasters: NRK, SVT, DR, Yle and RUV. Norway’s Cinenord Drama produces. Beta and a broad-based broadcaster alliance were behind “Babylon Berlin.” “Atlantic Crossing’s” makers will hope it will also help redefine the ambition of foreign-language drama series.

Lazy loaded image
Nordisk Film & TV Fond


Some industry players have warned about peak TV in Europe. It doesn’t seem to have happened. But is there really much growth at all? Some of the most interesting statistics at last week’s Conecta Fiction TF forum came from Spain’s Geca, an audience analysis company, which analyzed series premieres in Europe’s “big five” production powers of the U.K., Germany, France, Spain and Italy over 2014-17. Of the five territories, Spanish production was flat: 19 series bows in both 2014 and 2017. Italy’s was down: 27 in 2014, 17 last year. In production volume, the U.K. and France were up, but not exponentially so: 64 new series in the U.K. in 2014, 77 in 2017; 23 French series debuts four years ago, 30 last year. Only in Germany . up from 35 series in 2014 to 54 last year – is their clear production growth. Cash-crunched free-to-air network budgets are partly to blame. But it’s also a case of ambition. In many countries, producers are focusing on not more drama series but better and some times bigger titles. Production volume is just one metric when judging Europe’s TV growth.

Lazy loaded image
Courtesy of Globo


So what? Few networks are so steadfast in announcing their international sales than the Brazilian TV giant. What’s new is the territory, and the type of buyer. Globo’s telenovelas are catnip in Eastern Europe, but rarely clinch sales in Western Europe, outside specialist niche channels and Portugal. Though ratings blockbusters in Brazil,  neither “Jailers,” nor “Under Pressure” qualify as traditional Globo scripted products. “Jailers” is a just-12-episode penitentiary thriller, featuring its flash-points and the conflicted ethics and private life of an upstanding prison officer. “Under Pressure” turns on the daily heroics of doctors at an under-resourced hospital on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. Both are co-produced by top movie companies now highly active in TV: Gullane and Conspiraçao. Both won awards at TV events, “Jailers” the Grand Jury Award at 2017’s MipDramaScreenings, “Under Pressure” four statues at France’s Fipa. Their natural market is far from that of traditional telenovela fare.

Lazy loaded image
Mauricio Fidalgo