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Movistar +, El Rubius, Unveil Anime ‘Virtual Hero,’ Pay TV’s First Big Millennial Play

Anime fantasy actioner unlikely to be the last youth-targeting Movistar + Original Series

CANNES — Telefonica’s Movistar +, the telecom which has made the biggest drive into original series production by any telecom in Europe, hinted at some of its gameplay to attract millennials at a MipTV presentation Tuesday of “Virtual Hero,” an anime series adapting the same-named 2015-17 comic book saga of El Rubius, Spain’s most popular YouTuber.

From an original idea by Ruben Doblas – El Rubius – produced by Movistar +’s Domingo Corral and Pilar Blasco, directed by Alexis Barroso and written by Barroso and El Torres, “Virtual Hero” pictures the fantasy action adventures of El Rubius navigating through game worlds to save the 100 best gamers, trapped in a viral world by dastardly villain Trollmask.

Displayed via a trailer at the presentation, El Rubius’ motley support crew includes sassy warrior Sakura, zombie girl Zombirella, who carries a candle for Rubius, Slimmer, a gentlemanly, faceless spirit, and A.I. aide G4tO.

Speaking on stage at MipTV, El Rubius described the series as like a “parody” of Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” meeting “Guardians of the Galaxy.” “It has the mad VR part of the VR headsets of ‘Ready’ and the friendship of ‘Guardians,’” he added.

Produced with Zeppelin TV and the Planeta Group, “Virtual Hero” is also Movistar +’s calling card for a millennial generation in Spain, Latin America and beyond: Ismael Calleja, Movistar + head production and business affairs, revealed at the MipTV presentation that, with regard to international sales, Movistar + is “discussing different options,” and “close to finalizing [a deal].”

El Rubius’ humungous social media stats were flashed up on the screen at the beginnings of the talk: the most-retweeted Tweet of 2016; 28 million subscribers for his YouTube channel. The presentation began with a clip of El Rubius bounding onto stage in Colombia before a 30,000 crowd.

But, Calleja said, “for us, the most important thing is that we have found a very talented creator behind the influencer, who was convinced by the story he wanted to tell. That was the key factor.”

Movistar + is focused on “producing and creating shows [that are] very local, with a strong connection with our Spanish audience,” he added. That can be seen in the Spanish humor of “Virtual Hero,” El Rubius argued. That said, “Virtual Hero” “is also global.” “It’s easier to globalize with animation because it’s easier to drop the language barrier.”

The biggest pay TV operator in Spain, Movistar + sets itself apart through various factors, Calleja argued.

One is volume: Movistar + will premiere 11 Movistar Original Series this year. Released in two parts, at the beginning of summer and around fall, as a youth-targeting show “Virtual Hero” is unlikely to be a one-off as Movistar + aims at not so much attracting millions of viewers to any one show but millions of subscribers to its service, packaged with fibre optic broadband and mobile. That calls for its service to prove attractive to different segments of families around the year.

“‘Virtual Hero’ is a clear example of one of the things you can do on pay TV, which is make a series targeting a specific audience segment,” said Domingo Corral, Movistar + director of original production, talking just before MipTV. Corral confirmed that Movistar + is moving forward on a Spanish adaptation of Norway’s “Skam,” which it hopes to have ready by the end if the year.

“One of the things we want to do at Movistar + is innovate, take risks,” Corral commented, adding Movistar + would “ideally” like to produce “two-to-three” youth series a year.

The more a series targets a segment, the easier it is to experiment, of course.

Second, on stage at MipTV, Calleja commented that Movistar + aims to “send a message to creators in Spain if they want to tell a story from their POV, the place is Movistar.”

“It’s difficult to bring my character to the screen and before I  had people trying to censor me, I can’t be myself,” Rubius observed. Movistar + has “given me the freedom to help write the script and give my input make the character from the series look like me.”

As the battle for high-end content becomes a battle for talent, that creative freedom will be one important asset swaying talent towards certain operators.

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