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In the SVOD era, Spanish producers are betting on global series, often relying on funding from large American groups.

Spanish Fiction Opens its Doors to American Investment in Increasingly Ambitious Projects

Until a few years ago, Spain produced its most successful series with the free-to-air primetime TV as the main showcase. Broadcasters, the main financiers, used to retain most of the rights to these productions, except for a percentage of international sales that they shared with the independent producer. This model is now a thing of the past.

That is suggested by many of the Spanish premiere or local shooting series projects, highlighting the dizzying rate at which the sector is transforming, further accentuated by the impact of COVID-19.

On December 4th, "Tell Me Who I Am", a TV drama based on the novel of the same title by Julia Navarro, will be shown on Movistar Plus, co-produced by Telefónica and Telemundo International Studios, in collaboration with DLO Producciones.

Created by José Manuel Lorenzo and starring Irene Escolar, "Tell Me Who I Am" is the first Movistar co-production with the United States and is part of a three-year production agreement between the two groups.

Through this alliance, Telemundo International Studios has secured the distribution rights for this production in the United States. In addition, "Tell Me Who I Am" has been acquired by HBO Latin America, among other sales commitments managed by Beta Film.

International investors increasingly value the importance of producing content in Spanish, a language with a market of 500 million people.

Chilevisión, a Chilean free-to-air broadcaster owned by Turner Broadcasting System (WarnerMedia), participates with RTVE and Boomerang TV in "Inés of My Soul", a drama adapted from Isabel Allende's novel. Recently launched on RTVE's La 1, the historical series premiered this summer on Amazon Prime Video.

The co-production, says RTVE Content Manager Fernando López Puig, means producing more and better. “You make a better product because you have more partners,” he explains.

A pioneering group exploring partnerships with international operators to produce larger series is Mediapro, which in 2016 took a minority stake in "The Young Pope" –alongside HBO, Sky Atlantic and Canal Plus– and in 2019 launched The Mediapro Studio.

The arrival of The Mediapro Studio on the market has brought about a new production model for Spain. Previously, Spanish broadcasters retained all rights to a series, but now The Mediapro Studio has decided to take a different path.

“Our goal is to create content for a global market, retain IP, attract great talent, generate great franchises and boost our international distribution branch,” group co-founder Jaume Roures said recently.

In the area of premium series production, The Mediapro Studio’s most frequent international partners are American companies. These include Starzplay and Pantaya, which co-produce the thriller "Express", a project led by Spanish showrunner Ivan Escobar (“Locked Up”), or Sony Pictures Television, where TMS co-produces "Implacables - Mexico", set in Mexico City.

With Turner Latin America, TMS is also preparing the series “Las Bravas”, set around women's soccer in Mexico.

In many of its projects, TMS has been able to retain the rights and distribute them on a regional basis through its The Mediapro Studio Distribution division. This is the case of "The Head", a co-production with Hulu Japan and HBO Asia, already sold to Canal Plus in France, Orange in Spain, Amazon Prime Video in Italy and Globoplay in Brazil, among other markets.

Meanwhile, Diagonal TV, a production company belonging to EndemolShine Iberia, has announced an agreement with director Paco Cabezas ("Penny Dreadful: City of Angels") to lead the creative development of "The Gypsy Bride", a co-production with ViacomCBS International Studios.

The greater scale of the new fiction projects involving Spanish producers is due in part to the greater ambitions of these creators.

“I had been looking for years for a police thriller project in which to mix a street and human plot with a touch of terror to apply everything I learned in Hollywood shooting American series. And with ‘The Gypsy Bride’ I have found the perfect material," said Paco Cabezas.

“There is a revolution in production ambitions,” says TMS Corporate Manager Laura Fernandez Espeso. “Before, the Spanish broadcasters ordered 70-minute series for the whole family. Now the creators are moving with the market, thinking on a larger scale, with a view to jumping to international markets,” she adds.

In the global market, the size of the projects is necessarily larger. It is a very selective market, which demands high value-added series because of the stories, the production quality and the talent it incorporates.

La Fortuna”, a co-production of Movistar Plus and AMC Studios, in collaboration with MOD Pictures, currently shooting between Spain and the United States, is the first fiction series created and directed by Oscar winner Alejandro Amenábar.

“If you wanted to fulfill Alejandro Amenábar's vision, you needed the scale, so you needed an American partner,” explains Movistar Plus Chairman Sergio Oslé.

La Fortuna” is set for release next year through AMC on the markets of the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, while Movistar Plus will distribute it in Spain.

This international production includes a combined cast of Spanish (Alvaro Mel, Ana Polvorosa) and Americans actors, including Stanley Tucci, nominated for an Oscar for “The Lovely Bones”, and Clarke Peters (“The Wire”).

Meanwhile, Bambú Producciones, producer of emblematic Spanish fiction series such as “Gran Hotel”, “Velvet” and “Cocaine Coast”, is preparing the Galicia-based thriller “A Private Affair” for Amazon Prime, which will feature French actor Jean Reno (“León: The Professional”, “The Big Blue”) and Spain’s Aura Garrido (“The Ministry of Time”). The series will have a global reach, as Amazon plans to launch it in over 240 countries and territories.