Madrid Content City Marries Talent and Soundstages

Two of the most critical issues in the SVOD age are production facilities and talent.

That’s what Madrid Content City, conceived as an ambitious production hub by Spain’s Secuoya Group, is bringing to the table in Tres Cantos, a dormitory village near the capital, its integration of industry and university aiming to satisfy ever stronger demand for upscale content in the Spanish-speaking world and beyond.

In July 2018, Netflix announced its first European Production Hub at the five-soundstage Secuoya Studios. Four months later at MipCancun, Secuoya Group president Raul Berdonés unveiled plans for a Madrid Content City, built on Secuoya Studios.

In December, Berdonés inked a strategic deal with publishing giant the Planeta Group to construct an innovative university campus at Madrid Content City.

By September 2021, once three construction stages are completed, MCC will become the second biggest film-TV production center in Europe after the U.K.’s Pinewood Studios, and span 140,000 square meters (1.5 million square feet). This takes in 10 soundstages, ranging from 16,146 square feet to 21,528 square feet, plus offices, postproduction facilities, warehouses, catering services, sports, leisure areas, restaurants, an auditorium and a university campus.

MCC’s gambit is a connection of industry and university.

“It’s very important to unite both: One of the risks for audiovisual production is a lack of professionals,” Berdonés says.

“Madrid Content City must be an open space for creativity, galvanize latent sectorial concentration, and be very close in structure to a business park.”

Jesús Muela, deputy director at GVC Gaesco Valores, says, “To create a big audiovisual center, with a powerful infrastructure, allowing producers to centralize there the entire value chain, makes a lot of sense and generates multiple synergies.”

With Netflix on board, the five-soundstage Secuoya Studios is already one of the epicenters of an organically built northern Madrid film-TV hub. It’s also achieving another objective: talent convergence.

“The proximity to other shoots taking place at the nearby soundstages converts [the studios] into a meeting and activity place, unknown until now in our industry,” says Mariano Barroso, co-director and co-executive producer of Netflix’s series “Criminal,” which filmed last year at the studios.

The MCC project rolls off a high point in Spanish TV fiction history.

Filmed at the Secuoya Studios, Spanish dramas “La casa de papel” (“Money Heist”) and “Elite” figured in an October top 10 of most watched Netflix TV series last year, viewed by, respectively, 44 million and 20 million household accounts worldwide.

Local production is escalating at an unprecedented rate: Beyond Netflix, with more than 15 Spanish projects for 2020-21, Amazon, HBO, Viacom Intl. Studios and Starz are producing content in Spain. Other global players should follow soon.

Broadcasters or platforms are producing more than 60 TV drama projects this year.

“The [content] demand we have now has never happened before. Spain has never before been the fourth biggest TV fiction exporter in the world,” Berdonés says.
Several strengths underlie this growth.

Nurtured over 25 years via primetime TV competition, local drama talent definitively exploded with the streaming revolution.

Spain boasts cost-effective production rates, depth in high-profile creative and tech talent, locations, and 3,000-plus hours of annual sunshine. Since 2015, tax advantages for international shoots has made the mix even more attractive.

Since Bambú’s “Grand Hotel” in 2011, Latin American TV audiences have accepted original Spanish shows undubbed into neural Spanish. Dubbed Spanish TV series, driven by “Money Heist,” have begun to draw interest in Canada, Brazil, France and Turkey.

“What Spain has achieved in TV fiction production is a real revolution. We must take advantage of this juncture,” Berdonés says.

Already hosting the production of hit Netflix series, the Secuoya Studios, pillars of the future MCC, are contributing to the Spanish global build.

“Our objective and commitment to the industry is to position Spanish talent as a worldwide reference,” said Diego Ávalos, VP, original content at Netflix, at a late-January presentation of its lineup. “The technical quality of the teams and high level of the writers confirm that this objective is already partly achieved.”

“In my experience and that of colleagues who’ve worked [at the Secuoya Studios], the feeling is that a framework has been created for something we had generated without even knowing it: a solid structure,” says Barroso. “To make a big production you need production centers at an international level. This is what MCC is: something that didn›t exist until today in Spain.”

As the streaming boom sparks full occupancy of soundstages in key international production hubs, as in Hollywood, the market opportunities for new facilities is growing, reinforced in Spain by its predominantly cost-containing services.

Managed by Planeta, Madrid Content Campus will encompass a center for undergraduate and postgraduate studies, as well as specialized master’s in creation, management and audiovisual production.

“The concept is to convert Madrid Content Campus into an educational hub of international excellence for audiovisual industry professionals,” says Carlos Giménez, CEO of Planeta Training and University.

The Campus will host some 7,000 students, around 50% from abroad, mainly from Latin America, and have a R&D&I lab, a think tank, and cutting-edge teaching models.
Just the complex construction, backed by Roots, a property development company managed by Berdonés and partner Pablo Jimeno, represents more than a €120 million ($131.6 million) investment, fully covered by private capital. Roots also plans to export the MCC concept to other countries, such as Colombia and Mexico.

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