Movie titles produced by top Spanish broadcast network Mediaset España used to spark buzz at the Cannes film market every year, befitting a driving force of the Spanish film industry.
This year, however, like many other top European film production houses, Mediaset España is waiting on the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis to take the next steps in its theatrical release plans.
Films such as Jaume Balaguero’s TF1 Studio-sold “Way Down,” one of the company’s most anticipated titles of the year, is scheduled for a theatrical release this fall; and comedy “Operación Camarón,” handled internationally by Filmax, delayed its Spanish release from March 13 to Sept. 11.
“These are films for which we have strong audience expectations, and we want to protect them until we find the best scenario,” Mediaset España CEO Paolo Vasile said.
Although this year at Cannes virtual market there is no Mediaset España spotlight, as at previous live editions, the company underscores that Mediterráneo Mediaset España Group, its ambitious sales and distribution division launched early 2019, has become key to the internationalization of the Spanish film and series industry.
“TV series and films need to travel to demonstrate abroad the Spanish ability to tell stories, both from the point of view of content, as well as the technology forming part of their creative process,” Vasile says.
Vasile mentions subsidiary Telecinco Cinema-produced features such as Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” and Juan Antonio Bayona’s “The Impossible,” which made known to the world the competitive quality of makeup, special effects and technology available in the Spanish audiovisual industry.
In recent years, as the Spanish free-to-air commercial TV business’ prospects seem increasingly bleak – compounded since March by the impact of COVID-19 – Mediaset España has undergone a profound transformation from a Spanish TV network to a multiplatform audiovisual group with international ambitions.
“We have produced TV entertainment, fiction and films from the beginning, and we are going to make that experience profitable, thinking not only of TV, but in all possible forms of products exploitation,” says Vasile.
“Mediaset España is a large production factory, which also owns a television division. We are committed to increasing production in Spain, both for our own consumption and for third-party companies,” he adds.
Mediterráneo’s business vision includes combining exploitation windows with streaming operators in several ways.
In February, it announced an alliance with Amazon Prime Video seeing the U.S. online giant clinching Spanish pay-TV and SVOD rights to four Mediaset España TV dramas – “El pueblo,” “Caronte,” “Madres. Amor y vida” and season 2 of “Dangerous Moms” – plus docuseries “De la vida al plato” and “La Familia del baloncesto español” for an at least six-month exclusivity window commitment.
Further Mediterráneo-sold productions, such as new episodes of hit comedy series “La Que se avecina” and “Desaparecidos. La serie” will also launch on Amazon Prime before releasing on Mediaset España free-to-air channels.
Previous platform deals take in “Patria,” HBO Europe’s first original fiction series in Spain, and “Unauthorized Living,” a Netflix worldwide pickup, both created by Aitor Gabilondo at Mediterráneo’s Alea Media.
“Each story is unique. The platforms decide according to their respective content strategies if they need a certain product worldwide or only for the Spanish market. It works for us in both cases. If we sell it worldwide, with a single sale we have practically reached all the markets, but also by selling only Spanish rights, we have the freedom to offer it to the rest of the world,” Vasile says.
“The important thing is to reach a good agreement for both sides,” he adds.
Mediterráneo has also inked deals with OTT operators such as Movistar Plus, Vodafone, Viacom/CBS, Orange, Euskaltel, DirecTV and América Movil.
Mediterráneo, headed by Telecinco Cinema CEO Ghislain Barrois, has contributed to Mediaset España’s “other income” results during the first quarter of 2020, which gathered a €35.4 million ($39.8 million) total revenues, near doubling the figures from last year’s same period.
Coinciding with the general hike in audiovisual content consumption caused by Spain’s lockdown, Mediterráneo’s sales to platforms increased 50%, the company says, as it expects to multiply by five Mediterráneo’s sales during 2020’s first half.
Boosted by Mediterráneo and pay TV service Mitele Plus, “other income” had already increased 16% to $78.1 million in 2019.
“In a very short time, we have been able to demonstrate our flexibility to the market, going from selling a completed TV product to producing an original series or allowing our most successful series to premiere on platforms,” Vasile says.
“We are not locked to a standard approach. Today the important thing is to produce with high quality and profitability,” he added.
Currently, Mediaset España is developing several projects, some of them in collaboration with Warner Bros. International TV Production via Alea Media, and it’s in negotiations with several TV platforms.
“Whether or not they will ultimately be original content [from the platform] depends on the best possible combination for the business of both parts,” he says.
About Mediaset España’s interest in growing on the European TV production scene via partnership with companies such as German TV operator Prosieben, Vasile says: “We will start thinking about content development at a European level once the legal battle [with Vivendi] is over, and the merger between Mediaset SPA and Mediaset España is completed.”