“There’s an old Chinese curse: ‘May you live through interesting times.’ The sector is now going through very interesting times indeed,” Fremantle’s Manuel Marti reflected to Variety as Madrid’s 2nd Iberseries & Platino Industria, a TV-film forum, wound down on Friday, running Sept. 27-30.
Three large table talk topics were the fall out from the planned merger of HBO Max and Discover+ by Warner Bros. Discovery – with the removal of more than three dozen titles on HBO Max in August alone – Netflix’s reconfiguration of its business model and galloping inflation in Europe, threatening streamer subs, They also played out, if sometimes indirectly, at the Iberseries & Platino Industria panels.
Overall, the bigger picture was of a still vibrant but now challenged TV industry in Spain, Latin America and Portugal.
Iberseries’ mood was still upbeat, however. “Creators are enjoying freedoms, Americans are reading subtitles, the only stories which work come from a vital need to tell them, which aligns with the market, connecting with primitive human emotions and universal moral questions,” said The Mediapro Studio’s Daniel Burman, whose “Iosi, the Regretful Spy” was a Berlinale Series standout.
Spain and Latin America, moreover, are semi-proofed against swinging cuts. Four of Netflix’s top 10 non-English series over Sept. 19-25 were Latin American, led by the Caracol TV’s “El Rey.” Seven of Netflix’s most-watched Non-English Top 10 movies and Top 10 series since the streamer’s inception were produced by Spain.
Challenges also bread opportunities. So, between business deals, one Iberseries conversation driver was how to move forward in a far more cross-grained world. Following, 14 takes on a still dynamic market.
The New Nightmare: Inflation
“The past two years have not been good, because of COVID-19 and war in Ukraine,” said Martí. In the U.S., according to a Recurly report in March, as a result of current costs of goods and services, 31% of those surveyed said they planned to cancel some subscription services in 2022. “Now spiralling energy costs in Europe will take their toll on all industries. The only good thing for film and TV is that home entertainment is one of the last things many people will cut,” said Marti. The threat, – especially in Russian gas dependent countries such as Germany, Italy and France – is definitely there.
Co-Production and Embracing a New Old Normal
It was no coincidence that the biggest deal announced at Iberseries, on its very eve, was a framework production alliance between Spain’s Secuoya Studios and Colombia’s Caracol TV. It goes with the market flow, with even platforms embracing ever more co-production, multiple producers reported. Slowing subscriptions have “in some ways democratised the landscape,” said Marti. “Platforms now are eager to go into co-production, realising that they have more content with the same money. Maybe our old windowing business model was good. It can still be feasible and viable,” he added. Platforms are proving flexible. On films, Prime Video can activate a three-week theatrical window, said Amazon Studios’ Leonardo Zimbron. A cinema theater release is costly, however, only apt for some titles, he added. “Opening up to co-production is a more democratic content model,” said Zeta’s Xavier Toll, at a Creativity or Business? panel “It allows you to be more of a producer, propose and look for more, with a broad set of options to generate content. The model we’re moving towards will give us a lot of happiness and is sustainable.”
Far More Selective Buying
“We’ve come from a tremendous boom with the launch of platforms where there was an enormous necessity for new content to present the platforms to first subscribers,” said Ezequiel Olzanski at EO Media, one of the producers on Iberseries buzz title “Ringo” as well as “El Presidente” Season 1. As over the last few years, film production took multiple hits in Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Spain, a young generation of cineastes piled into drama series, making sometimes vibrant titles. All five shows in Iberseries & Platino Industria’s Capítulo Uno showcase of market premieres were directed by former filmmakers, led by “Official Competition” helmers Marcelo Cohn and Gaston Duprat, with second chance drama “Limbo” and “El Encargado. Cohn and Duprat signed a 20-production deal with Disney+ and Star+ in December 2021. With such deals locked, “naturally the wave is waning. There will be a much greater selectivity,” said Olzanski. “We believe it’s vital to construct projects which are valuable in an era of larger cherry-picking before going to platforms, in terms of talent, stories, language and market appeal, paying special attention to platforms’ needs and goals,” he added.
HBO Max in Latin America
“If I had to give an example of HBO Max, truth to say I don’t have a better one than ‘House of the Dragon,’” said Marcelo Tamburri, at HBO Max Latin America, teasing a quickfire upcoming production showreel on Thursday, including a first glimpse of anguished procedural “The Bronze Garden,” Season 3. “House of the Dragon” is “an excellent melodrama with a big-budget, focusing on the quality of the story, compelling characters, a cinematographic style and complete development,” he added, noting that HBO Max will look for “few projects” and avoid niche shows. “We’re looking to be broad.” That raises a question: If HBO Max goes even broader in international, how will competitors react?
Netflix: One Take on the New Model
Can Netflix stay the course with its new AVOD/SVOD model? According to Maria Rua Aguete, senior research director at Omdia, speaking at Iberseries, online video advertising will generate three times more revenues than SVOD in 2027. “It’s not surprising that all the major SVOD services including Netflix want to take part in that growth,” she said. In the next five years, online advertising revenues will almost double from $190 billion in 2022 to $362 billion in 2027; SVOD will grow from $86 billion to $118 billion. In the U.S., Netflix will generate just under a quarter of its revenue from advertising by 2027, Rua Aguete forecast. Omdia estimates that by 2027 nearly 60% of global Netflix subscribers will be on the ad-supported tier.
A Drive into English
EO Media is boarding ever more more projects beyond its territory of origin, Latin America, and organically in other languages, including English, Olzanski said. It’s not alone. The Mediapro Studio is advancing on portfolio of U..S and U.K. projects, led by a production alliance with Erik Barmack and John Tuturro’s adaptation of “Is There No Place on Earth For Me? “We’ve grown up with the Hollywood star system and a series in English still has far more of a chance of being global,” said Olzanski. The biggest project at Iberseries’ Co-Production Forum was “Barcelona,” now the tale of a NCIS agent who flies to Barcelona to coordinate security with local law enforcement agencies. “This is a step forward in our growth strategy, an organically multilingual, universal story with talent of this caliber,” El Estudio CEO, Diego Suarez Chialvo told Variety as Stephen Kronish and Jon Cassar boarded the project.
More deals, apart from Caracol-Secuoya and “Barcelona,” announced by Variety:
*Buendía Estudios unveiled a TV series adaptation of Antonio Gala’s erotic novel, “La pasión turca,” set to air on Atresplayer Premium and a series makeover of novel “El Angel Perdido” (“The Lost Angel”) by Javier Serra, which will slot into its co-development and production deal with Universal International Studios, signed in March.
*Spanish hit ‘Dias mejores’ was renewed for Season 2 by Prime Video, VIS and Zeta Studios.
* “Money Heist” star Alvaro Morte will headline “Talkies,” from “Luis Miguel” producer Gato Grande, helmed by “Money Heist” director Alex Rodrigo.
* Candle Media’s Exile Content Studio has joined forces with Trojan Horse Media, behind Emmy-nominated Netflix doc “Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado,” to produce premium content.
*Spotify’s ”Case 63” creator Julio Rojas and Spain’s Goya-winning Belen Cuesta (“The Endless Trench”) are set to star in “La Torca del Diablo,” a sci fi thriller from Chile’s Canal 13 and Miguel Asensio’s Tiki Group.
*Spain’s Marc Clotet (“The Sleeping Voice,” “15 Hours”) and Argentina’s Juan Gil Navarro are attached to star in “Fragile,” a Patagonia noir thriller created by StoryLab partners Nacho Viale and Diego Palacio.
*Top Spanish arthouse distributor-producer Avalon had boarded “La niña de la cabra” (“Goat Girl”), the sophomore film by actor-director Ana Asensio whose “Most Beautiful Island” feature snagged the SXSW Grand Jury Award in 2017.
*France’s Dublin Films Boards Juan Sebastian Mesa’s ‘Lovers Go Home!’ lead produced by Federico Durán’s Rhayuela Films in Colombia.
*Onza Americas unveiled developing political drama series “Sattva.”
*Lima-based Apus Animation Studio has pacted to co-produce TV series “Chek & Chan” with Valencia-based Hampa Animation Studio and toon feature “Nimuendajú: El Hombre que Encontró su Camino” with Brazil’s Anaya Films.
In the biggest trailer sneak peek of Iberseries, VIS Fernando Cuervo and Sebastien Vives unveiled a first trailer for “Bosé,” which captured Bosé’s art – a mix between David Bowie glam and sexual ambiguity and softer Italian melody. It also revealed one main emotional punch of the series as Miguel Bosé (played by Iván Sánchez and José Pastor), debates becoming a father, attempts to reconcile himself with memories of his own, famed philandering bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguín, whom he loved but who despised him for not being a real hombre. The series is shaping up as one of Spain’s biggest upcoming bows.
Oscar nominated director Rodrigo Sorogoyen (“Madre,” “As Bestas,” “Riot Police”) brought onto the international market “La Guerra,” a six-part Spanish Civil War which looks like one of the biggest Spanish series ever made.
In a Capitulo Uno highlight, Sorogoyen, screenwriter Isabel Peña and creative co-ordinator Fran Araújo talked up Episode 1 of collective series “Offworld,” from Movistar Plus+ and Buendía Studios, one of Spain’s most anticipated fall releases.
Atresplayer Premium’s broad penitentiary comedy “Dos años y un día” had its fans, as did RTVE’s “Fuerza de Paz,” an eventful action drama set in Equatorial Guinea, and Edgar Medina’s Portuguese noir crime thriller “Natural Law,” sold by Movistar Plus+ Internacional.
“Pancho Villa” was an obvious standout at Thursday’s Star+ presentation, underscoring multiple Star+ hallmarks: Impecable production values, strong IP, eye-catching visuals and tried-and-tested talent, beginning with longtime Disney production partner BTF Media
HBO Max’s Spanish titles “Osel,” a thoughtful doc series revision of the fate of Osel Hita Torres, won an upbeat response, as did “Pobre Diablo,” a joyously reverent 2D animated feature riff on the Apocalypse.
The Iberseries Co-Production & Financing Forum Prize – an invitation to Ventana Sur’s SoloSerieS – was snagged by StoryLab’s “Fragile.”
Clarisa Navas’ “They Burn in the Same Way” and Ulises Porra’s “Bajo el mismo sol” scored by being selected for both San Sebastian and Iberseries Latin American feature co-production forums.
The Premio Pez Dorado award for best writing pitch went to “Cuando no esté” from Sara Bamba Alía. Further key titles generating good word-of-mouth are highlighted in other parts of this article.
The Upside of Turmoil: “Ringo”
Turbulent times in Latin America can also yield extraordinary figures who battle the headwinds of history, triumph and fail spectacularly, often for the same reason. Star+, for example, looks like it may have a winner in “Ringo,” the fictionalized life story of the extraordinary Oscar “Ringo” Bonavedna, who took Mohammed Ali 15 rounds in Madison Square Garden, became a TV star and multimillionaire in Argentina but, becomes embroiled in the Nevada mafia, obsessed by its promise of a rematch with Ali. His obsession proved his tragic flaw.
Biopics Stand Out at Iberseries
Equally, one of Iberseries biggest market premieres, was Amazon’s “El Presidente,” Season 2, presented by its Academy Award-winning showrunner Armado Bo, a “Birdman” co-scribe. It takes on another extraordinary figure, Brazil’s Joao Havelange, who, as Johan Cruyff forged the modern game on-field, reshaped it economics. As “El Presidente” Season 2 has it, this again is a tragedy. Seizing control of FIFA in 1974 from the neo-colonial Stanley Rous, Havelange grew soccer into a global business, powered by sponsorship and TV deals. But he did so at a tremendous cost, opening it up to backhanders, and losing his friends, family and honor. Season 2, a mixture of near doc recreation and self-declared fiction, begins with Havelange celebrating his 100th birthday. Only one guest accepts his invitation.
Bizkaia Explains Its Up-To-70% Incentives
Normally, producers and service companies lobby governments for higher tax incentives. At Iberseries, the government of the Basque Country’s Bizkaia, led by Iñaki Alonso, its director general of tax authorities, lobbied the sector to make use of extraordinary new incentives in Bizkaia, which levies its own taxes. Alonso had something special to offer: An up-to-70% tax credit on productions shooting in Bizkaia, running 2023-28 and approved by the European Union. Alonso took advantage of Iberseries to clarify its application. Credits apply to not just Spanish but international shoots. “We’ve taken ‘Spanish’ out of the equation.” Credits’ cap is 50% of global production costs, 60% for co-productions with the E.U. That ceiling is removed in the case of “difficult” works, for example first or second features or those directed by women. For service companies to tap credits, they can set up offices in Bizkaia.
All the world has biopics, but not so many as Latin America. Iberseries’ other singular showing, which helped it stand apart from non-Latin events, was its sense of dramedy. Iberseries very much belonged to Cohn and Duprat, directors of “Official Competition,” with Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas and masters of the dramedic art. One Capitulo Uno highlight was “El Encargado,” with “The Secret in Their Eyes’” Guillermo Francella ripping it up as Eliseo, a concierge and nothing else in life, forced to dastardly desperate measures when about to be laid off.
Iberseries & Platino Industria Consolidates
Welcoming 2,000 delegates, with an 18% hike in overseas attendees, and framing panels, while introducing 164 projects,
Iberseries & Platino Industria looks to have fully consolidated as a must-attend event for Spain, Latin America and Portugal. Its timing and Madrid – one week after San Sebastian, two weeks before Mipcom – is a gift to Spain, while making a heavy demand on Latin Americans to cross the Atlantic twice in less than a month. But travel remains vital as the industry reconnects post-pandemic.