The Mediapro Studio Sales Head Marta Ezpeleta on the State of the Market, the Real TV Revolution

Marta Ezpeleta
Credit: The Mediapro Studio

Best known is its early decades as a sports broker, services provider and producer of auteur films, from Woody Allen and Roman Polanski to Spain’s Isabel Coixet and Fernando Aranoa, few companies have powered so fast and bullishly into high-end drama series production than Spain’s Mediapro.

That drive has seen The Mediapro Studio launch in 2019 as one of Spain’s preeminent production forces, and then build even more with new titles set up with Paramount Plus (“Cecilia,” produced with VIS), Disney Plus (“Siempre Fui Yo”), Amazon (“Iosi, El Espia Arrepentido”), Warner Media (“Las Bravas”) and Netflix (“Magic For Humans Spain”).

Yet TMS is eager to own IP, still with relations with lineal players and completed 52 productions  between March 2020 and January 2021, despite pandemic. So it runs a powerful and ever-growing sales operation, The Mediapro Studio Distribution. Variety chatted to Marta Ezpeleta, its first director appointed in 2019:

1.Selling a Gamut of Shows from A-Z

TMSD’s top new show at MipTV is Movistar Plus’ “Paraíso,” a retro high-school sci-fi drama set in 1992 and included in The Wit’s Fresh TV Young Adult showcase at MipTV this year. Other Spanish shows on its MipTV slate – “The Boarding School, Las Cumbres,” made wih Buendía Studios and a reboot of the 2007-10 isolated high-school classic, and Orange Spain’s “Caminantes,” a St. James Way-set horror thriller – also channel YA vibes. But TMSD’s goal is to have a “360 degree variety,” says Ezpeleta, pointing to its MipTV comedies such as Atresmedia cop farce “Los Hombres de Paco”; and Russian restaurant-set “Nasdrovia,” for Movistar Plus. That’s a question of market logic, she argues. “We’ve adapted to the sensibilities of every territory which are as many and as varied as our clients.” And clients now cover not only free-to-air and pay TV buyers but streaming platforms buying territories not the world.

2.2020: The Real Revolution

TMSD adapted, like all the world, to the pandemic. But one other real market revolution driver for Eszpeleta has been the launch of new global streamers. That’s cut several ways. “The portfolio of partners we work with has multiplied, though that does not change the way we work and for us all windows are equally relevant, including free to air television, cable and pay TV channels and movie theaters. It is the business that has grown,” she says. The Mediapro Studio’s distribution division has grow with it too. Mediapro launched an in-house sales company, based out of Madrid in 2007. TMSD now has sales operations in 14 offices spread worldwide.

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Paraiso Credit: Michael Oats/Mediapro

3.And Its Challenges

The OTT sea-change also plays out in other ways. “There’s a larger demand because the need for content is even higher in all the operators we work with,” Ezpeleta commented. The need for content quality is ever higher. So budgets are inevitably rising, and competition for key talent too. Some platforms – Netflix, Disney Plus – prefer to 100% finance joint productions and handle distribution. But it’s now a sellers market for those with top-tier product. So one of TMSD’s growth strategies cited by Ezpeleta is “to amplify our catalog of contents both with in-house shows and third-party content. We’re open to content from companies which trust in The Mediapro Studio Distribution.”

4.Building Long Term Relationships

In most countries, it’s extraordinary how fast the new TV/OTT landscape has come together. Only half a decade ago, independent producers in Spain largely produced for national networks. Now half the main titles on TMSD’s MipTV drama series sales slate are made with international partners: “Express” (Starzplay), “Codigo Implacable” (Sony Pictures Television), “The Head” (Hulu Japan, HBO Asia) and “Los Internacionales” (ViacomCBS Intl. Studios). Docuseries “Fernando” and “Six Dreams” plus “El Internado: Las Cumbres” are all made with Amazon Video Prime. “The streamers have facilitated the globalization of contents but the demand extends now to all the windows,” says Ezpeleta. It’s happened to so fast that another strategic priority for TMDS, she argues, is simply “to consolidate the partnerships we have with key clients in each and every territory, which allows us not only to distribute a specific content but gain market value with these partnerships.”

5.Story is King

Why Spain’s TV export boom? “The principal consequence of the universalization of content is that non-English language content faces less market barriers,” says Ezpeleta. “The global streamers have accustomed viewers to watching series in other languages, which is increasing the demand from free-to-air channels which are opening up too to contents from other countries and languages.” But “the story has to be good, well told, interesting and with levels of quality. If it isn’t, it doesn’t matter where the series comes from.”

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El Internado Las Cumbres Credit: Mediapro