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Iberseries, one of the Spanish-speaking world’s first international TV festivals, has launched an online version of what would have been some of the key events at its originally planned on-site first edition in Granada, Southern Spain, due to have run in late May.

Set in the run-up and dates of that event, which was dashed by COVID-19 pandemia, the initiatives cut two ways: Two, a presentation of Movistar Plus’ banner series “La Unidad,” and an Iberseries Pitch session, forefront excellence in drama series creation. A late-May panel aimed at an industry audience, Panorama of Platforms, Channels, will see four of the biggest players in Spain and Latin America set a road map for industry re-launch with post COVID-19 re-opening in Spain and Latin America.

Together, the initiatives are intended to help propel a production sector which is seen by governments across the Spanish-speaking world as an exciting growth sector and vital potential source of economic investment.

On May 7, Spain-based telecom Telefonica reported a first quarter 40% increase in bandwidth demand. During the COVID-19 crisis, “The consumption of series has grown exponentially. This could be seen as an ephemeral phenomenon,” said Samuel Castro Hansson, Iberseries director.

However, “It will mark new strategies and formats,” he added, “situating the audiovisual industry as one of the sectors with largest growth potential in a panorama of economic reconstruction.”

One masterclass, The Pitch as Project and Career Sale and Management, was delivered on May 14 by Argentine producer Marián Sánchez Caniglia. The coaching session “responds to one object of festivals in general: To offer training to accredited industry members,” said Castro. The online panel saw 2,800 views, with 700 to 1,000 watching the full hour, said Castro.

Iberseries’ online initiatives capture the range of the festival’s planned activities, said Castro. Iberseries Pitch is an industry activity, its masterclass still specialist, but of general interest and “La Unidad” the activity which can connect most with a general public.

Released May 15 on Movistar Plus, “La Unidad” will be presented online on Tuesday May 19 in an event organized with Movistar Plus open to the general public and free-of-charge by producer Emma Lustres, director Dani de la Torre, co-creator and co-screenwriter Alberto Marini and Movistar Plus head of content Fran Araujo.

Cross cutting at its outset between Melilla, a Spanish North African enclave, Morocco’s Tangier and France’s Toulouse, as Spain’s  anti-terrorist police carry out a triple sting against Jihadist terrorist cells, “La Unidad” also underscores bigger picture industry trends.

One is Movistar Plus’ drive to scale via closer collaboration with both international and local content providers, here Germany’s Beta Film which holds down a multi-year production-distribution alliance with Movistar Plus and sells “La Unidad.”

A move by Movistar Plus towards more propulsive action, “La Unidad” also illustrates its drive to show audiences parts of a Spain they don’t know, such as the extraordinary aerial shots of Melilla’s Cañada de la Muerte in Ep. 1.

The action thriller sets itself apart from most U.S. series, moreover, because of the absolute normality of its Unidad gents. Their problems – separation, loneliness, the wear-and tear of work on personal relations – are those of their audiences, though their work is most certainly not.

In addition, said Castro, “La Unidad” is “a clear example of how cineastes can cross over to series,” marking the first series for De la Torre, Lustres and her production house, Vaca TV.

On May 28, five Spanish-language drama series will be pitched to an industry audience of potential producers, financiers, and platforms and broadcasters in a competition with a €3,000 ($3,270) cash prize. Projects will be split pretty equally between Latin American and Spain. “New stories are needed more than ever. Spanish-language creators should be given the chance to gain profile. Any cash prize, moreover, can be crucial at this time,” Castro told Variety.

May 26’s Digital Panel will have speakers from two broadcast networks, one in the Americas, another in Spain, and two platforms, one Spain-based, the other operating in Latin America, Castro said.

Spanish-speaking drama series already have competitive advantages, such as a global audience of 577 million Spanish speakers. “Content internationalization is leading to the emergence of language mega-groupings for scripted,” read an study by London-based research company Ampere Analysis, calling English, Mandarin and Spanish the “Holy Trinity” of current drama production language.

The panel takes place, however, as Latin America’s two biggest Spanish-language economies suffer mightily, with Mexico, heading for a brutal downturn and Argentina teetering on the edge of debt default.

At a time of recession and uncertainty, one big question is what kind of scenarios producers will face once the pandemic is over, Castro said. Already, screenplays have been rewritten to minimize health risks on re-start shoots, he added.

Given enormous competition, collaboration, dialog and production alliances –  gaining in scale, attracting talents, and offsetting risk – look imperative.

Hence the need for a digital panel. Castro anticipated one more-than-likely conclusion: “Co-production is an essential success factor,” said Castro. “We’ll see more and more big alliances between production companies, platforms and channels.”

Thanks to the likely importance of the companies represented on the panel, explanation of their strategies and immediate future departure will give some clues to a more general industry roadmap for now, the second half of 2020 and 2021, Castro concluded.

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Samuel Castro Iberseries