In a significant step in its strategy of becoming a leading player in original content production and distribution around the globe, Movistar+, the pay TV unit of telco giant Telefonica, is launching new drama channel Movistar Series for Latin America.
Two years ago, Movistar unveiled its original series production plans, with Alberto Rodríguez’ €10 million ($12.3 million) budget period thriller “La Peste” as its flagship drama, kicking off the biggest bet from a telecom on scripted content production in Europe, with a yearly investment commitment of €70 million ($86.1 million) in series production.
As part of an ambitious plan of 12 original series releases a year, Movistar+’s first four high-profile TV fictions, “The Plague,” “Velvet Collection,” “The Zone” and “Shameless” have been championed by Spain’s critics, social networks and its audience success, backed by a strong promotional effort by Telefonica.
“We wanted to be very successful in Spain but not stop there, but becoming a reference for content production in Spanish language. This was a natural step, taking advantage of the distribution capacity of the whole Telefonica group,” said Movistar + president Sergio Oslé at a press conference Thursday in Madrid.
Once Movistar’s bid to expand its drama-focused operations in Spain has fructified, the next step is Movistar Series’ landing in 13 Latin American countries.
The move would make available Movistar Series, beyond Movistar+’s 3.8 million subscribers in Spain, to about 3 million pay TV homes and more than 110 million mobile clients the telco has in Latin America – a massive presence in the Spanish-speaking region which represents a competitive advantage compared to other international rivals.
From Feb. 15, Movistar Series will launch in Chile, Colombia and Perú and, before year’s end, the new channel will also land in Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, México, Nicaragua, Panamá and Uruguay.
The move into content is to promote take-up of and fidelity to other Telefonica services, the basis for more advanced domestic entertainment systems in the future.
“In the end, the strategy we pursue is comprehensive: it is not only about having our own high-quality series, but also providing the best possible entertainment experience. That leads us to use our network and of course include important content. That strategy, clear in Spain, is what we intend to promote in the rest of the markets,” Oslé added.
“We are aiming to produce stories that can easily and quickly be taken across to our different Hispanic markets,” said Michael Duncan, CEO of Telefonica Global Consumer Unit.
Establishing its credentials in TV, associating with acclaimed fiction creators in a sector where production and distribution are often dominated by powerful U.S. studios divisions, Movistar Series aims to premiere in Latin America 12 original series throughout 2018. In addition, the channel will also broadcast contents produced by third parties, successful Latin American series in different formats, as well as movies and documentaries. Each week, Movistar Series will release episodes of nine series and five movies.
“The Plague,” a serial killer thriller set in Seville around 1580, created by Rodríguez and writing partner Rafael Cobos, produced by José Antonio Félez at Atípica Films, will be the first original production released by Movistar Series.
With the ambition of a parallel launch on both sides of the Atlantic, upcoming productions that will follow on this year on the new channel take in Cesc Gay’s Leonardo Sbaraglia-starrer “Félix,” Mar Coll’s “Matar al padre,” Enrique Urbizu’s “Gigantes,” Paco León’s “Arde Madrid,” about Ava Gardner’s Spanish years, and anime “Virtual Hero,” based on El Rubius’ comic.
“Movistar’s original series are not only in our own language, but also represents us and sound like us. They are local stories with a universal attraction. For example, ‘The Plague’ has surpassed the number of views of ‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘The Walking Dead,’ or ‘The Big Bang Theory’ on Movistar +. This fact demonstrates the relevance of local contents for our clients,” said Domingo Corral, fiction director at Movistar+.
In Latin America, Duncan added, “we are diverting part of the budget we spend on content we get from major production aggregators, channelling it so that Domingo [Corral] can give us access to the content that he is producing in Spain. Eventually, we would like him to produce content in Latin America.”
For Movistar, another objective in Latin America is to become a platform for local independent distributors whose content doesn’t get on to major platforms. Since the company operates as a local regional platform, it can give space and opportunity to content from local talent as a distributor.
Where Movistar+ operates fixed lines -Argentina, Chile, Peru and Colombia – will have access to Movistar Series through both its basic package offer and a TV everywhere Movistar Play app for mobile service users.
Duncan said: “What we want to do is strike agreements with local broadcasters; we want all local broadcast channels on the app, with catch-up. So [we have] a first layer that is free-to-air channels, a second layer that is a skinny bundle, so you could have CNN Español, TNT, Cartoon Network, but no more than five-to-six-to-seven bundled channels.”
He continued: “Then a VOD package with all Movistar exclusive series, plus the Movistar Series channel. Beyond that you can subscribe to HBO Go, Fox Plus,” and further key content suppliers.
In that sense, deals with HBO and Fox Plus are “signed, delivered and done and already integrated into the application,” he confirmed.
Movistar Play will be giving the opportunity to subscribe to other OTT offers via the app.
“We hope to have the best content out there included within our app,” said Duncan, who hopes that the app will also “increase our loyalty and our revenue-per-subscriber and lifetime value of customers, giving them another reason to choose Movistar instead of another bundle.”
John Hopewell contributed to this article