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Spain’s TV Production Boom Sends Ripples Through Industry

Never has Spanish TV drama production been so vibrant.

Over the past 12 months, “La Casa de Papel” (“Money Heist”) and “Elite” became global sensations via Netflix, building on the success of previous series (“Grand Hotel,” “Velvet”) that demonstrated a never-seen-before appetite for Spanish originals.

Netflix is opening the doors of its first European production hub in Madrid in early April and preparing five new Spanish Originals; Movistar + aims to produce 15 series a year; HBO and Amazon are increasing production.

Meanwhile, top free-to-air TV broadcasters Mediaset España and Atresmedia are re-inventing themselves as studios, producing content for third-party operators, and taking advantage of their production expertise.

The boom is opening up more ambitious and flexible business production models, such as co-production.

“Many of our projects, from inception, have co-production partners,” says Telefonica’s Movistar + president, Sergio Oslé. “It keeps us international from the get-go and helps us distribute, and also reach some scale and share know-how.”

Movistar + has strengthened its position in Latin America and Europe via a co-production alliance with Telemundo Intl. Studios.

“It’s very much easier to close co-production deals today than even two years ago,” says Portocabo founder Alfonso Blanco.

Entering into international high-end TV drama from 2014, Mediapro has co-produced HBO’s “The Young Pope” and “The New Pope”; partnered with DirecTV Latin America on “Todo por el juego”; is shooting Mediterranean noir “The Paradise” with Finnish broadcaster YLE; and is teaming with Sweden’s Dramacorp on “The Head.”

Mediapro “teams on titles with predominantly international partners from the get-go, seeking to co-produce when possible and retain part of IP or initiating its own original productions,” says co-founder and partner Tatxo Benet.

In March, the company launched the Mediapro Studio, overseen by Javier Méndez as chief content officer, and revealed it had 34 scripted series in production, fruits of its frenetic policy of strategic alliances with players such as Televisa, Viacom Intl. Studios, Disney, Turner and Vice.

Just how Spanish producers are rolling off the boom varies. “The Department of Time’s” Onza Entertainment is co-producing “Hernán. The Man” with Mexico’s Dopamine Studios, a big-budget Spanish-language TV drama with Óscar Jaenada as conquistador Hernán Cortés.

“There’s an extremely competitive environment, we need to be continuously generating content,” says Sonia Martínez, Atresmedia head of fiction and editorial director at Atresmedia Studios.

Atresmedia has inked with Netflix, giving the streamer preferential access to many series.

In its first year of operations, the Atresmedia Studios has snagged deals to produce Amazon original “La templanza”; teamed with Alex Pina and Esther Martínez Lobato’s Vancouver for Movistar + thriller “El embarcadero”; and co-produced “Pequeñas coincidencias” with Onza and Amazon.

Mediaset España, Spain’s top-rated broadcast network, will introduce Mediterráneo Audiovisual to the international market at MipTV, integrating its sales, acquisition and production activities.

The new operation includes companies such as Alea Media, producer of “Vivir sin permiso” and “Patria,” and Mandarina, behind comedy series “Dangerous Moms.”

“The market is changing, and we are more open to linking to potential partners, bringing to the table our companies’ know-how,” says Ghislain Barrois, Mediterráneo Audiovisual CEO.

“Dangerous Moms” and cop thriller “Costa del Sol squad,” a Mediaset España co-production with Warner Bros. Intl. TV and Netflix, have both been selected to play at MipDrama Buyers’ Summit.

Bambú, partially owned by Studiocanal, is making originals for Netflix (“Alta Mar”), Movistar + (“En el corredor de la muerte”) and providing TV dramas for Atresmedia channels (“45 Revoluciones”).

Much growth is indeed being driven by SVOD players. According to a PwC study, Spain produced 38 scripted series in 2015, 58 in 2018. Originals by Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Movistar + and HBO represented 31% of total series last year. That percentage looks likely to grow.

Netflix is almost doubling — from six to 11 — the number of originals and that includes projects by “The Red Band Society” executive producer Pau Freixas, teaming with Filmax, and “Crime Times” film director Nacho Vigalondo.

After “Patria,” its first original in Spain, currently in production at Alea, HBO España is broadening its output with new fiction by Spanish filmmakers Alex de la Iglesia (“30 Coins”) and Isabel Coixet (“Foody Love”).

“La Templanza” marks Amazon Prime Video’s first Original Series in Spain. It is based on a novel by María Dueñas, author of “The Time in Between,” whose 2013 TV adaptation was a hit for Atresmedia.

One key aspect of the co-production model is the talent mix. “Hernán,” for example, combines actors and crew from both markets, with Mexico’s Julián de Tavira and Spain’s Curro Royo as co-showrunners.

Talent is now at a premium. Netflix tied down “La Casa de Papel” co-creator Alex Pina to produce new series beyond “La Casa,” such as “Sky Rojo” and “White Lines.”

Mediapro is also inking exclusive key talent deals for a creative team, which already includes Iván Escobar (“Vis a vis”), Javier Olivares (“The Department of Time”), Fernando González Molina (“The Boat”) and Diego San José (“Spanish Affair”).

Some local producers fear a boom-to-bust scenario. Few appear to be slashing production levels, however.

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