The Atresmedia Group, the original producer of Netflix global hit “La casa de papel” and one of Spain’s leading media conglomerations, has built a brand as a powerhouse in the country’s blooming scripted TV industry.
As other big international broadcasters, such as ITV in the U.K. and RTL in Germany, Atresmedia, now 30, is looking to depend as little as possible on a increasingly declining ad market, priming content creation and pay TV opportunities, extending the economic life of its prolific production factory.
Its series’ reach exploded a decade ago, driven by successful international sales on primetime hits such as Bambú-produced “Gran Hotel” and Boomerang TV’s “The Time in Between,” underscoring a never-seen-before foreign appetite for Spanish originals.
A more dramatic shift started six years ago, boosted by Spanish TV series’ growing impact, when its management team kicked off the task of gradually consolidating Atresmedia as a digital company, putting content production front and center of their business, as well as diversifying revenues.
“Atresmedia’s strategy is to see content as our business, that our activity pivots and diversifies from content, beyond the behavior of advertising markets,” says Atresmedia general manager, Javier Bardají.
Figures back up Bardají. “At present, about 20% of operating profit Ebitda generated by the company’s TV area already comes from operations directly related to our content,” he says. That contents-related ratio will improve even more this year because of the COVID-19 adverse impact on ad market.
“Atresmedia’s entry into the content business is growing very well, having more than doubled in the last five years. Considering the contraction of TV ad markets, it was a necessary step,” says James Mckenzie, analyst at Fidentiis Equities.
Álex Pina’s “La casa de papel,” the most-watched non English-language series in Netflix history and a milestone in Spanish TV fiction’s international impact, exemplifies Atresmedia’s new approach.
The Emmy-winning series, who first two parts were produced by Atresmedia in collaboration with Pina’s Vancouver Media, aired originally on Atresmedia network Antena 3. The following parts launched as a Netflix original series, produced by Vancouver -in which Atresmedia owns a minority stake.
“‘La casa de papel’ is the paradigm of our TV model: a local product, made by national talent, with success in our country, but capable of travelling all over the world; a product that we have been able to make profitable by diversifying its [commercial] exploitation, bringing us prestige and brand value,” Bardají says.
The hit series paved the way to a 2017 deal with Netflix giving the streaming TV giant preferential access to TV dramas from Atresmedia. Amazon had previously inked for Atresmedia catalogue titles.
“’La casa de papel’ has been a big success. Now it is Atresmedia’s turn to grow and build on that foundation. The market to do so is now huge,” says Mckenzie.
Beyond the Netflix worldwide phenomenon, Atresmedia’s reinvention as a content factory continued generating further business in SVOD/pay TV windows around IPs previously launched on free-to-air.
In 2017, Atresmedia pacted with Fox the production of new episodes of the “Vis a vis” (“Locked Up”) franchise. It also signed with Movistar Plus on paybox’s first TV drama, “Velvet Collection,” a spin-off from hit primetime skein “Velvet,” and teamed with The Mediapro Studio to produce Amazon Exclusive series “El Internado: Las Cumbres,” a sequel to “El internado” (“Broading School”).
But Atresmedia contents success is not solely confined to TV drama. Talent show “Tu cara me suena,” fruit of a partnership with Endemol Shine Iberia’s Gestmusic, has been adapted for 40 international territories, including the U.S. (ABC’s “Sing Your Face Off”) and the U.K. (“Your Face Sounds Familiar,” on ITV).
Top rating access primetime show “El hormiguero,” produced with Madrid-based 7yAcción, has been widely adapted and sold as a complete program in many territories, especially in Latin America.
Among recent films produced by Atresmedia Cine, the group’s movie production arm, figure Sergio Pablos-Netflix’s Oscar-nominated and Bafta winning animation feature “Klaus,” plus Oriol Paulo thriller “Contratiempo,” a pioneering Spanish film in the conquest of Chinese B.O.
A milestone in Atresmedia’s push towards a more substantial international presence is the recently-launched Buendía Studios, a 50% joint content production company created alongside giant telecom Telefonica, one response to the need to become more competitive in an increasingly global market.
Creating and producing films, series and entertainment projects, the game-changing strategic alliance will see a joint venture between Spain’s two biggest content companies, which invested some $1.3 billion in programming in 2019, according to research company Omdia estimates.
The alliance comes two years after the launch of Atresmedia Studios, Atresmedia’s prior third-party TV production arm, also the home of Atresmedia Cine, whose operations have been reincirporated into Buendía.
The move positions Buendía as a potential Spanish-language content provider of choice for big streaming platforms.
“The content demand of global OTT players is becoming so immense that Atresmedia’s bet on production makes total sense,” Mckenzie says.
After three decades as a free-to-air operator, at a moment when powerful international platforms have already landed or plan to operate in the short-term in Spain, Atresmedia offers several competitive advantages when it comes to producing Spanish TV contents.
One is its recognized Atresmedia Series brand. Another, proximity. And a third, its access to creative and tech talent.
“The influence, relevance and possibility of being extremely local through our content is the black gold that many pursue,” Bardají says.
“Free-to-air TV is the real specialist in Spanish audiences. And that’s our true DNA, which must materialize in everything we do,” he adds.
This also becomes a strength in the SVOD market, a territory where Atresmedia relaunched last year its Atresplayer Premium platform.
“We can make local content that may well interest Spaniards more than the generic and universal content these international players need to produce. There is room for everyone,” says Bardají.