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MIP: Spanish Scripted Drama Meets Challenge of New Marketplace Landscape

Spanish drama production has evolved quickly in the past few years, while the proliferation of SVOD platforms is revolutionizing the sector.  OTT distribution has helped push some Spanish series onto not only continental screens, but also global TVs.

Take, for example, Alex Pina’s “La Casa de Papel,” produced by Vancouver Media for Atresmedia, and acquired worldwide by Netflix. Its Dalí-inspired aesthetic has been celebrated at Brazil’s Carnival and Saudi soccer matches.

Netflix has now commissioned Spanish drama series (such as Bambú’s “The Cable Girls”) and made early investments in others (such as RTVE’s “The Department of Time,” Atresmedia’s “The Cathedral of the Sea”).

Spanish fiction has “always been a quality product,” says Mediapro head of content Javier Méndez. Now, “the world is discovering Spanish fiction through its presence on new global platforms.”

Beyond Spain, the main target is Latin America.

In February, Movistar Plus — Telefonica’s pay TV unit and an OTT groundbreaker — launched Movistar Series. Powered by at least 11 annual Movistar Plus Original Series, it will operate in 13 Latin American territories before year’s end.

Movistar Plus’ upcoming releases include Cesc Gay’s “Félix,” which is competing in Canneseries that runs during MIPTV, Mar Coll’s “Killing the Father,” Enrique Urbizu’s “Giants” and Mariano Barroso’s “The Day of Tomorrow.”

“When we think about a story we mainly focus on Spain, even though we also have to think about Latin America,” says Movistar Plus’ Ismael Calleja.
Big global players such as HBO and Fox are producing their first Spanish originals.

“TV operators nobody would have imagined teaming will ally to produce dramas,” predicts producer Ramón Campos at Bambú, which is 33%-owned by Studiocanal.

Teaming with TV indie giant Mediapro, Fox boarded season three of women’s prison thriller “Vis a Vis,” while Alea Media, part-owned by network Mediaset España and run by showrunner Aitor Gabilondo, is preparing “Patria,” an adaptation of Fernando Aramburu’s ETA-themed novel, for HBO España.

The SVOD platforms and pay-TV channels are more active in fiction production than most free-to-air players, Méndez says.

Atresmedia is one exception. “Fariña,” about Spain’s narco trade, averaged a fantastic 20.1% share in March for its first three episodes on the media giant’s Antena 3.

Helping boost interest in the series has been the recent arrest of Galician drug lord Sito Miñanco, the drama’s main character, and a court injunction on the book on which the series is based.

“In a highly competitive market, a boost in notoriety helps infinitely,” says Atresmedia head of fiction Sonia Martínez. Series was co-produced by Germany’s Beta.

For Martínez, “ ‘Fariña’ shows that Spanish TV audiences are used to watching series that, starting from local stories, address universal subjects that everyone understands.”

Atresmedia is now upping the ante, launching Atresmedia Studios to produce content for third-party national and international operators, initially targeting Spanish-speaking markets.

A first drama project, “El embarcadero,” has been commissioned by Movistar Plus with “La Casa de Papel’s” Pina producing.

Spain’s top-rated broadcaster, Mediaset España, is also adapting to the new TV landscape, producing exclusive scripted content on request for international SVOD operators, CEO Paolo Vasile noted in January.

With a solid brand as a long-term film-TV fiction producer, Mediaset España is co-producing, with parent company Mediaset Italia, the romantic comedy series “Lontano da te.”

Mediaset and Atresmedia have among the highest profit margins in Europe. But they are diversifying as the growing weakness of many TV ad markets worldwide suggests limited midterm growth for their core ad business.

Although it is state-financed, pubcaster RTVE is also exploring opportunities for drama production.

“First, we want to test the market situation through co-production,” says Fernando López Puig, head of film and television fiction.

TVE is developing two Latin American co-productions in Chile — with network Chilevision — and Cuba, inspired by historical novels.

Meanwhile, it continues to produce local TV drama, such as Benidorm-set thriller “Fugitiva,” starring Paz Vega, and Boomerang TV’s female-oriented series “La otra mirada.”

In this rapidly evolving sector, the real battle looks to be for talent.

Mediapro’s powerful creative team encompasses “Homeland’s” Ran Telem, Argentina’s Daniel Burman, “The Department of Time” showrunner Javier Olivares and film-TV director Fernando Gónzalez Molina (“The Invisible Guardian”).

A generation of veteran TV showrunners, specialists in creating hit primetime dramas of international interest, now rubs shoulders with a new wave of smallscreen talent, crossing over from feature film, on premium TV dramas.

Top TV titles at MIP from Spain’s producers:

El Accidente

A deceiving-husband thriller, produced by Mediapro’s reliable Globomedia and Mediaset España. Eccho Rights handling sales.

A House in Amargura

A female-centered drama set in a tumultuous 1850 colonial Cuba from Ficcion Producciones.

Altamira: The Dawn of Art

Morena Films-produced documentary on paleolithic rock paintings’ discovery, from José Luis López Linares (“Bosch, the Garden of Dreams”); Latido Films handling sales.

Astrology

A humor-laced, dialogue-free 3D CGI show on personality traits sold by Spain’s premier TV animation force Imira Entertainment.

Betrayal

A family drama starring Ana Belén, from Bambú Producciones (“Las Chicas del Cable”) and pubcaster RTVE.

Buck & Buddy

A slapstick animated comedy about a beetle and a stick bug from Imira

Cleo & Cuquin

Hit animated comedy series inspired by Spain’s 1960s TV toon from Anima Kitchent.

Dalia the Dressmaker 

A 1950s-set miniseries, mixing love and intrigue, produced by Galicia’s CTV.

Farina — Snow on the Atlantic

Atresmedia’s primetime phenomenon, produced by Teresa Fernández Valdés at Bambú Producciones and Beta Films.

Felix

Telefonica-Movistar Plus’ big spring series and Canneseries competition contender. Set in a snowy Andorra, this comedic romantic thriller from Cesc Gay (“Truman”) stars Leonardo Sbaraglia (“Wild Tales”). ITV Studios Global Entertainment handles sales.

Fugitive

A Benidorm-set thriller starring Paz Vega (“Spanglish”) from Ganga Producciones and RTVE.

Giants

One of Movistar Plus’ biggest original series, “Giants” is a violent, tension-packed drug-dealers family TV drama. Enrique Urbizu (“No Rest for the Wicked”) directs. Produced by Lazona, with sales handled by About Premium Content.

Gormiti

Planeta Junior teams with Giochi Preziosi and Barcelona’s Kotoc on an epic action-comedy animated series based on the popular European toy Gormiti.

Heroes Wanted: The Series

Produced with Mod Producciones, Atresmedia action comedy about a special operations group, set in Spain’s transition to democracy in the 1970s.

I’m Alive

Season two of RTVE’s primetime leader about a back-from-the-dead cop tracking down his murderer. Imagina Intl. Sales handling sales.

In Land of the Wolves

A Basque post-apocalypse survival series offered in ten 10-minute episodes.

Kilian Jornet: Path to Everest

Documentary on big peak runner Jornet and his Everest exploits, from Filmax’s Arca Audiovisual and Arcadia Motion Pictures. Dreamcatchers handles sales.

Living Without Permission

Prominent Mediaset España series about a drug trade kingpin suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. José Coronado (“No Rest for the Wicked”) stars, and Alea Media produces.

Locked Up, Season 3

The sharp-edged women’s penitentiary thriller is back, this time from Mediapro and Fox Networks Group España.

Merlin 

Eduard Cortés (“Ingrid”) directs a TV3/Veranda TV high-school coming-of-ager that logged a 23.6% share in Catalonia for its third-season finale. Lagardère Studios Distribution is handling sales; Beta acquired remake rights.

The Miramar Murders

Movie director Manuel Martín Cuenca helms a doc series about Pablo Ibar, 16 years on death row in the U.S., with Filmax Intl. handling sales.

Presunto Culpable

A missing-girlfriend thriller, set in an exquisite Basque fishing village, from Lagardère’s Boomerang TV.

Private Life

An early 20th century tale of bourgeois ambition from Oberón Cinematográfica.

Running to Heaven

Marathon up Pyrenees’ imposing Monte Perdido, from the Basque Country’s Prime Time Media and IIS.

Seven Deaths

A murder mystery TV movie from producer-director Gerardo Herrero. Lagardère handling sales.

Strange Fishing Sundays

Selected for MipTV/Canneseries’ In Development, low-fi sci-fi series about a man’s multiverse life. “Timecrimes’” Eduardo Carneros produces. Laniakea Capital also on board.

Side Games

One of Mediapro’s big MipTV bets, co-producing with DirecTV Latin America, a soccer corruption drama from Daniel Calparsoro (“Invasor”) and IIS.

Slaughterhouse,  an Iberian Thriller 

A Diagonal TV/Atresmedia drugs trade tale set in a “Fargo”-ish country town.

The Truth

A missing girl reappears nine years later — or so she claims — in a Mediaset España series, from Cesar Benítez’s Plano a Plano (“El Principe”).

Virtual Hero

Part of a MipTV on-stage presentation, a Movistar Plus original anime makeover of YouTuber Rubius’ adventure-fantasy comic-books.

Welcome to the Family

The latest TVC-aired success from “Red Band Society’s” Pau Freixas and Iván Mercadé, “Family” is a suspense dramedy about a struggling mom produced by Arca Audiovisual with Filmax Intl. on board.

What the Future Holds

Another Movistar Plus original series, this is a generational drama from Mod Producciones (“Crematorium”), directed by Mariano Barroso (“Extasis”).

John Hopewell contributed to this report.

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