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Mediapro at 25: Exporting Talent, Retaining IP

The Mediapro offices in Madrid’s Fuencarral district have for years boasted the logo of Globomedia, Spain’s premier scripted series production house.

But in the second half of April, a new logo, the Mediapro Studio, will replace the old. The change marks a near-total reinvention of the company’s scripted series production paradigm, says Mediapro partner Taxto Benet.

For years, Globomedia produced content for Spain’s three nationwide broadcast networks. Now its production partners span the globe, from many of the most important U.S. companies such as HBO and Netflix, to Mexico’s Televisa, Sweden’s Dramacorp, Italy’s Palomar, Finland’s YLE, Argentina’s two biggest broadcasters Telefe and Artear, plus Spain’s Mediaset España, Atresmedia and TVE. Mediapro also has four shows in development with U.K. producers, says Laura Fernández Espeso, the Mediapro Studio co-head of TV.

For years, Spanish broadcasters fully financed series, retaining all rights save a share of international.
Now, Mediapro aims to co-produce when possible, retaining part of IP or initiating its own original productions, Benet says.

One turning point was gritty women’s penitentiary thriller “Vis a Vis” (“Locked Up”). When Atresmedia cancelled the Globomedia show in July 2017, Mediapro stepped in to finance seasons three and four, retaining rights and selling to Fox Networks Group in Spain, with Mediapro in-house company Imagina Intl. Sales distributing internationally.

Returns were “really good,” Benet says, “demonstrating to others and ourselves that it was worth investing in our own series.”

Before, Mediapro and Globomedia series could sell very well abroad, says Fernández Espeso, citing “The Boarding School” and “Los Serrano,” which have run up more than 20 format deals. But they began as domestic productions, and now, international partners board projects from the get-go, she says.

Just a few years ago, Mediapro hired talent on a project-by-project basis. Now it’s signing exclusive contacts, fighting to become a home for best-of-their class talent, offering “creative freedom” and on occasions “a share of backend,” says the Mediapro Studio co-TV head Javier Pons.

In 2016, Mediapro signed “Homeland” producer Ran Tellem as head of international content development. In 2017, it bought a majority stake in Buenos Aires’ Burman Office, headed by Argentinian producer-writer-director Daniel Burman, who has become Mediapro U.S. head of content.

The Mediapro Studio is a clear sign to the market of the company’s bet on content, says Javier Méndez, the Studio’s chief content officer. It has multiple factors in its favor.

“There’s an enormous wave of interest in Spanish-language content, driven by the success of ‘Vis a Vis,’ ‘Money Heist’ and ‘La Casa de Flores,’” Méndez says. “The whole world is discovering our capacity to create super-premium content at super-contained costs, with characters understood the world over.”

Mediapro has also tapped into a generation that emerged when Spain’s new broadcast networks plunged into original production since the mid-1990s. “Money Heist” creator and “Vis a Vis” co-creator Alex Pina, is a key creative from that era.

Writing for Spanish free-to-air TV, where shows were summarily cancelled after a few episodes if ratings sagged, they have learned how to grab audiences from the get-go, and have developed an expertise in women-led melodrama, while creating bold genre mash-ups such as supernatural crime thriller “Estoy Vivo.”

Showrunners exclusive to Mediapro include Ivan Escobar (“Vis a Vis”), Mariano Baselga (“Los Hombres de Paco,” now “Unwanted”), “The Department of Time” co-creator Javier Olivares and director Fernando González Molina (“The Boat”).

All in all, Mediapro now has 165 scriptwriters and 126 directors on its books, Méndez says.

Mediapro has begun to export Spanish scriptwriters to Latin America, “where they’re ever in greater demand,” to work on co-productions, Pons notes.

It will launch a master’s degree in creative writing and screenplays at Madrid’s Complutense University, spearheaded by Fernandez Espeso, in order to find more.

“Never have more projects of such quality been produced,” says Espeso. “But for those levels to be maintained, we have to ensure the best of education for new creators.”

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