No series better represents Movistar Plus’ push into original, high-end programming than “La Peste” (“The Plague”) – sold internationally by Sky Vision – which broke broadcast records when it launched and returns with Season 2 Nov. 15 and features as a Mipcom Market Screening.
Season 1, which bowed in Spain in January 2018 to the best opening results of any series, aired or available, on the Telefonica-owned pay TV giant, “Gave us a lot of security and convinced us that we could do quality, prestige series which reach large audiences,” says Movistar Plus director of original fiction Domingo Corral.
“We made Season 2 even bigger. It has much more adventure, more action and it opens other stories. It says new things that weren’t said in Season 1,” he adds.
In the first two episodes of Season 2, audiences will see series protagonist Mateo (Pablo Molinero) fight to survive Chile’s harsh Patagonian winter, Spanish galleons traversing the Atlantic, the violent introduction of the Garduña crime family and a daring escape from a sex slave organization.
While the increased action is obvious from the start, creator-director Alberto Rodríguez and co-creator Rafa Cobos also gambled big on narrative, expanding the series’ point of view to a handful of now-main characters, including a few new faces.
“Characters that were secondary in the first season step forward into more prevalent roles,” said Cobos. “By introducing other characters’ points of view, we are able to better illuminate the bigger story being told, as opposed to Season 1’s more episodic format.”
Teresa (Patricia López Arnaiz), one such secondary character from Season 1, has been promoted to main instigator, calling the shots as she goes head to head with human traffickers. Her increased participation also offers a welcome female perspective of life in 16th century Seville.
New key characters in Season 2 include Baeza (Jesús Carroza), a bordello boss who runs afoul of the powerful Garduña family, and the man brought in to combat corruption of the ruling class, a fiercely loyal and ambitious monarchist recently promoted to mayor of Seville named Pontecorvo (Federico Aguado).
“The narrative is more choral in Season 2,” Rodríguez explained. “We had to gamble and open the storytelling to more points of view. The story and how we used the camera to tell it this season always had to be agile. Simple, but agile.”
Putting the series into a larger perspective at Movistar, president Sergio Oslé says, “One of the key reasons we do fiction at all is to have our own voice, personality. Rather than just a distributor of content, we are increasingly perceived through the way we produce via our own brands and original production.”
So far, the investment is paying off according to Susana Herreras, Movistar Plus head of development, original series, who points out that, “Since we’ve started working with original content, eight out of 10 of the most popular series on Movistar are our originals. That shows that we’re doing something right.”
“Without Movistar Plus, some shows would never have been made in Spain,” says producer José Antonio Félez, whose company Atípica Films has produced both seasons of “The Plague.” The differences are in “assumed risk, and far larger ambition and production levels, which before were good but those of free-to-air TV. Movistar Plus allows for very different premises.”
That backing allowed the “The Plague” unprecedented access to 130 filming locations, a technical crew of 200, 2,000 extras and over 250 individual VFX sequences to re-create 16th century Seville. Its budget of €1.5 million ($1.7 million) per episode stands out as exceptional in a country with typically modest TV production costs.