Entering into a post-“Money Heist” phase, the Spanish TV fiction industry is immersed in international growth strategies as it promotes at home new and original voices that create TV stories with universal appeal.
Key production-distribution TV companies such as The Mediapro Studio, Onza Entertainment, Secuoya Studios and Buendía Estudios are building beachheads in the Americas to strengthen the standout place in the sun of the global TV drama business that the Spanish TV industry already occupies.
As by far the biggest part of a 600 million people Spanish-speaking community around the globe, Latin America and the U.S. Hispanic represent the most obvious market for growth.
However, a common ambition for Spanish companies eyeing the Americas is to develop projects in the region but aimed at the global market, which are also increasingly based on IP. And the most natural formula is to bet on international co-productions, which allow projects to scale up and tap Latin talent.
The most recent move, just announced by Buendía Estudios, the joint-venture created in 2020 by media conglom Atresmedia with telco giant Telefonica’s paybox Movistar Plus, is its landing in Mexico, tapping Ana Paula Valdovinos – a former Telemundo Global Studios executive – as director of production and development for Latin America and the U.S. Hispanic.
Buendía’s first project in the Americas, “Swift as Desire,” a fantasy romantic drama series, adapts a hallmark novel by Mexico’s Laura Esquivel.
Meanwhile, The Mediapro Studio, one of Europe’s super indies, is prioritizing the U.S. as its growth market, for which it’s tapped Eugeni Sallent and Carolina Bilbao as, respectively, head of Latin America and VP of content and business development for the U.S..
“Our work in the U.S forms part of the international expansion of The Mediapro Studio, key to our strategy. We have a strong team in the U.S., with offices in Miami and New York,” says Laura Fernández Espeso, CEO of The Mediapro Studio.
“Among the main advantages, I would highlight the creative synergies and the increasing international reach of our productions. Producing and having partners in the North American market allows us to foster a creative exchange between our own team and the excellent talent that exists in the U.S., by tradition a stories generator with a global reach,” Fernández Espeso adds.
“This collaboration is a very important alliance for our company because the union of creative forces enriches us both and allows us to be more ambitious in our goals, thanks to the global distribution that they guarantee to the projects we are working on.”
“The impact of premiere content on American platforms is indisputable, not only for fictions generated in the U.S., but also for fictions generated from abroad. The partners with whom we work in the U.S. have enormous experience in the creation, production and distribution of content and our ambition is to be, together with them, creators and distributors of these stories worldwide,” she says.
Ongoing TMS productions in the U.S. take in the mini-series “Is There No Place on Earth for Me?” by John Turturro and “Fauda” director Assaf Bernstein’s spy thriller series “The Doctor.”
TMS has also completed upcoming series “Las Bravas,” a WarnerMedia co-production for HBO Max; thriller series “The Implacable Code,” co-produced with Sony Pictures Television for Claro Video; and TV feature “Hunting Ava Bravo,” with Erik Barmack’s Wild Sheep Content.
Established last year in Miami, Onza Americas marked the expansion of Madrid’s Onza Entertainment, producer of cult Spanish series “The Department of Time.” The aim is to increase Onza’s capacity to design and execute co-production projects between Spain and Latin America. Onza Americas has just signed Harvey Grisalez as senior VP – replacing Vincenzo Gratteri- – and Inés Havraneg as content director.
After inking in September an alliance with Telemundo Streaming Studios to co-develop, co-produce and co-finance multiple TV fiction projects until 2023, Secuoya Studios has just partnered with U.S. streaming service Pantaya and production company William Levy Entertainment.
“Montecristo” – a La Habana, Madrid and Miami-set original series, based on the Alexandre Dumas’ classic “The Count of Montecristo” and toplining Latin star Willian Levy (”Resident Evil: The Final Chapter”) – marks the first fruit of the pact.
“Our goal is to generate strategic business alliances that provide us with competitiveness and trade volume,” says Secuoya Group president, Raúl Berdones.
Spanish players expanding abroad enjoy in parallel very strong fundamentals to their business at home, where they boast solid production links with both big global and local SVOD players.
“With budgets comparatively lower than European and U.S. standards, Spanish production attains superlative quality levels. Platforms and broadcasters are well aware of this,” says Buendía Estudios’ editorial director of series, Sonia Martínez.
“Local Spanish production really lift off after the launch of private-sector networks over 1989-90. We’ve spent 30 years at the pit face making series, learning by trial and error,” Martínez adds.
But the TV landscape has changed in a brutal way.
Vancouver Media’s flagship series “Money Heist” first launched on Atresmedia’s free-to-air channel Antena 3 in 2017 before breaking out spectacularly worldwide via Netflix, where its Part 4 scored 619 million hours viewed within its first 28 days.
The second generation of SVOD platforms landing in Spain – taking in Disney Plus, Paramount Plus and Starzplay – is looking for TV projects that allow them to differentiate themselves from their competitors and attract subscribers, an increasingly complicated task among the swathes of current offers.
“Audiences are clearly fracturing and there are increasingly aggressive bets on a creative level,” says The Wit’s Caroline Servy.
“With the arrival of new platforms there are slightly different criteria on how to value success. Auteur series which are ambitious and risky at times have achieved a real success. Without scoring millions and millions of viewers, they’ve been acquired by TV operators and platforms worldwide,” she explains.
Series such as Leticia Dolera’s comedy “Vida Perfecta,” teaming Spain’s Corte y Confección with Movistar Plus, HBO Max and Beta Film “addresses universal issues but is very Spanish in its madness, in its way of narrating,” says Servy.
Atresplayer Premium and Buendía Estudios teamed on trans bioseries “Veneno,” created by Javier Calvo and Javier Ambrossi, known as Los Javis, through their label Suma Latina. It was successfully launched by HBO Max in the U.S. and Latin America, and acquired by BrutX in France.
“Its impact on the international media and its contribution to strengthening the Atresmedia brand and the international recognition of Los Javis as creators has made “Veneno” Atresmedia most important recent hit,” argues Mercedes Gamero, Atresmedia’s head of acquisitions and sales.
Suma Latina also teamed with Atresmedia and Buendía Estudios on Atresplayer Premium’s “Cardo,” one of the hottest indie series of last year, renewed for a second season, again from creators and writers Claudia Costafreda and Ana Rujas, who also stars.
Both Veneno and Cardo “underscore the breadth of genres and diversity in the series we produce and broadcast,” Gamero says.
“In general, TV fiction hits are split into two different kinds of productions. There are certain successes, helped by a good programming and distribution strategy, and then other that are more organic, which are narratives by an auteur that now find a market on operators and platforms that didn’t exist before,” Servy argues.
“Now we are in another paradigm, there are more windows and that accompanies creativity,” she says.
“Young generations are different but this is something that works well with Spanish TV fiction’s DNA, although it’s not only Spanish, but it is very compatible and there are reasons to think that this will continue to work,” Servy concludes.