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Movistar Plus Makes Major Wager on Original Series

In the first scene of “El Embarcadero” (“The Pier”), from “Money Heist” creators Alex Pina and Esther Martinez Lobato, Oscar vidcams his lover, Veronica, naked in bed, getting up, popping on a dress and walking out in dazzling sun onto her patio, the stunning L’Albufera freshwater lagoon beyond.

“The Pier’s” opening captures in a nutshell much of Movistar Plus’ major wager as an original series producer, the biggest of any telecom in Europe, having bowed 11 series from “Velvet Collection” in late September last year. Series is co-produced with Atresmedia Series and Vancouver Media.

It’s a just one-minute scene, filmed, however in 20 shots, with incisive style and the money that only a big-budget series can bring. But Movistar + is willing to put large resources at its creators’ disposal. Recreating c.1580 Seville, serial killer thriller “The Plague’s” six episodes cost €10 million ($11.6 million).

One of Mipcom’s only two World Premiere TV Screenings, “The Pier” turns on an ambitious architect, Alejandra, who discovers, after the death of husband Oscar, that he led a double-life with Veronica. The series marks a conscious attempt by Pina and Esther Martínez Lobato, following up “Money Heist,” declared by Netflix to be their most-watched non-English series ever, to move outside their comfort zone of broad penitentiary (“Vis-a-Vis) and robbery (“Money Heist”) genre thrillers, says Martinez Lobato.

“We’ve never worked on a romantic drama whose backbone is the emotions of the characters,” adds Pina.
Not for that matter has Movistar Plus.

“Movistar Plus trusts a lot in its creators and wants to do different things and unusual genres. Sensual romantic thrillers like ‘The Pier’ haven’t been produced a lot,” says Christian Gockel, at Beta Film, the series’ sales company.

“The Pier” indeed stands in stark contrast — in genre, style and showrunners’ profile — to Movistar Plus’ other two originals at Mipcom, “Gigantes,” a brutal tale of crime family confrontation, and “Arde Madrid,” a comedy-thriller set among Ava Gardner’s domestic staff in a 1961 Dolce Vita Madrid.

Movistar + embraces “risk and originality, telling stories which have not been told before in a new way,” says Domingo Corral, its director of original fiction.

What links all three series is a sense of place. ”The Pier” is set in the near future in Valencia and the stunning L’Albufera marshlands and paddy fields nearby. The two are constantly contrasted, says Pina.

“‘The series is shot in an extraordinary place that nobody knows outside Spain. It’s attractive, special. After seeing the first episode, I thought: ‘I must go there,’” Gockel says.

But if some things stay the same, others are changing. In narrative terms, events and revelations unspools at a quick pace in “The Pier.” Oscar’s death, for instance, is announced after just seven minutes.

“VOD consumers are now more compulsive, impatient, have a huge selection of series,” says Ismael Calleja, head of business affairs. “We’re conscious it’s crucial to capture audiences in the first episode, even the first 15-20 minutes.”

Movistar is also acquiring more of a female gaze. “In ‘The Pier,’ the women behave like women, feel in a deeper manner,” says Martínez Lobato.

The series also marks part of a hiked production-distribution drive. Encouraged by first-year results — “The Plague’s” pilot was seen on Movistar + by more viewers than a Real Madrid-Barca clásico, says president Sergio Oslé — the company aims to power up production from 11 original series over 2017-18 to 15 for 2018-19.

Since February, series are distributed directly in Latin America via a Movistar Series channel. Movistar has 200 million Movistar TV, mobile and fixed broadband customers in Latin America, suggesting huge, untapped market potential. Like Alejandra in “The Pier,” Movistar + is initiating a voyage of discovery.

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