Spain’s leading international sales agencies adapt their strategies to an increasingly competitive and complex marketplace
The leading VOD platforms are key players in the production and international distribution of content. This role was consolidated long before the onset of the pandemic, but the current situation has reinforced it even, disrupting the role traditionally played by international sales agents.
Changes in content consumer habits lead of these agents as an increasingly relevant filter between OTTs and production, leveraging their proximity to the local producer.
“Our work is even more important now in positioning films on platforms and helping producers make the best decisions on the release of their films. We are becoming increasingly important points of contact. Our position has been strengthened,” explains Latido Films CEO Antonio Saura.
The crisis caused by the pandemic has led to the massive theater closures, with a growing backlog of pending releases and the reformulation of festivals—reducing their media reach—. All of this has multiplied the challenges for independent distributors.
These independent distributors are the primary recipients of the products marketed by agents, and they are continuing to buy, though cautiously, saving their biggest investments for when the market becomes clearer following the end of the pandemic.
Of course, the demand for content from VOD operators remains very active. It is an option that is rapidly gaining ground in light of the current downturn of theatrical releases.
Creation of the VICA Association
Faced with the challenges in the sector, the VICA Association (Vendedores Internacionales de Contenido Audiovisual) was created to promote a consolidated defense of the sector’s interests.
Chaired by Antonio Saura, VICA’s mission is to provide its members a united voice in discussions where it is essential to understand the importance of the international market, ensuring the viability of the content they represent.
The new association believes that the work done by sales agencies is not sufficiently know, and it comes, paradoxically, at a time when global interest in Spanish-language audiovisual content is reaching unprecedented levels.
Worldwide Success of “Below Zero”
With the changes that come, some agents are redefining their role in the marketplace, leveraging their proximity to local producers. Film Factory, the company led by Vicente Canales, negotiated with Netflix the action thriller “Below Zero,” a film directed by Lluís Quílez and produced by Morena Films, Amorós Producciones and Producciones Heladas.
Released online on January 29, Below Zero immediately topped the Netflix charts worldwide, including in the United States.
Below Zero also represents a profile of Spanish art house genre cinema that was already popular on the streaming giant with Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia's dystopian film “The Platform,” one of Netflix’s most popular films in 2020, sold by Latido.
OTT operators tend to bypass traditional distributors and establish a direct connection with consumers, as well as negotiating directly with producers. Many of them, however, need the support of a sales agent to optimize the process of bringing their films to market.
“Independent films need an international partner now more than ever to help them connect with their audiences, wherever they are,” says Luis Renart, CEO of Tenerife-based sales agency Bendita Film Sales.
Proliferation of VOD Platforms
“There is a massive proliferation of VOD platforms (460 in Europe alone, according to a recent study by the European Audiovisual Observatory). Not all of them buy original content, however, so they need a significant number of catalog titles,” says Geraldine Gonard, sales agent and creator of the co-production forum Conecta Fiction.
“Sales agents are positioning themselves as wholesalers, putting content packages on these platforms,” she adds.
OTT platform users have a major appetite for audiovisual content. With that, Barcelona-based Filmax has experienced an notable increase in the sales of its huge film catalog—with an impressive presence of genre titles—, as well as in the sale of adaptation rights for its films. Cesc Gay's “The People Upstairs” is a recent example.
New Sales Agencies
For some companies, the time has come to launch new international sales initiatives.
Geraldine Gonard and her company Inside Content have teamed up with producer Luis Collar, partner of The Circular Group, to launch the Feel Content sales agency, to capitalize on new market opportunities for Spanish and European films.
As an international sales agent, Begin Again Films, headed by Gloria Bretones, works to market Spanish and Latin American content, especially debut films.
Begin Again acquired the documentaries “Purple Black” and “Controverso,” at the recent European Film Market, in addition to selling the Goya award-winning documentary “The Year of the Discovery,” by Luis López Carrasco.
Igor Lejarreta's film “When You No Longer Love Me,” his biggest hit to date, has been sold in the United States, China, and other countries.