Spain’s TV Golden Age Surges Forward

Emiliano De Pablos

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The explosion of global streaming services has prompted a golden age of Spanish drama series.

Led by new seasons of Netflix phenomena “La casa de papel” (“Money Heist”) and “Elite,” global demand for the top 20 Spanish-produced TV fiction titles grew 30.2% this year compared to 2018, according to Parrot Analytics.

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“The quality of Spanish production is powering stories across borders in an unstoppable way,” says Ana Bustamante, managing director at Mediterráneo Mediaset España Group.

“Since audiences are used to watching global content, it’s now much easier to sell Spanish series,” says Portocabo founder Alfonso Blanco, producer of “Hierro.”

“Spanish TV fiction is being discovered worldwide. Gradually there will be an adjustment to demand, prompting price hikes. This will allow us to continue growing and make more ambitious productions,” says Javier Méndez, the Mediapro Studio content director.

At home, global players are rapidly positioning themselves.

Netflix now operates its first European Production Hub at Tres Cantos’ Secuoya Studios near Madrid, with 24 global originals in production or development. Amazon is lensing fiction series “El Cid” and “La Templanza,” its first two original Spanish fiction series; next year, HBO bows its first Spanish series, Basque drama “Patria.” Viacom Intl. Studios plans to launch a production center in Madrid; Apple is said to be landing soon.

“This is the beginning of a new era for fiction and distribution in the world. How many players? I don’t know, but there’s plenty of room,” says Diego Ávalos, Netflix’s director of original content, Spain.

Telefonica is teaming with media conglom Atresmedia to create a 50/50 production-distribution venture, to scale up on both fronts and retain top talent.

Since 2017, Telefonica’s Movistar Plus has released 11-12 original series a year, part of the biggest bet ever on TV content by a Spanish company. The Telefonica-Atresmedia venture looks set to produce a wide-range of series and features.

“It’s a new world. Finding the best partners is a big part of the success. If you want to travel far, you need to do so with good partners,” says Susana Herreros, chief content editor of original production
at Movistar Plus.

The battle for success will largely be fought over talent. That’s one reason the Mediapro Studio has been signing exclusive contracts with, among others, “Homeland” producer Ran Tellem as head of international content development; Argentine producer-writer-director Daniel Burman, now Mediapro U.S. head of content; and Javier Olivares, co-creator of cult series “The Department of Time.”

Another big issue is IP. Broadcasters Mediaset España, Atresmedia and RTVE are used to fully financing series and keeping all rights, save a share of international. But the mold has been broken.

“In a few years, there’ll be more producers with a powerful creative and financial capacity, that can invest in developing content, sharing IP, decisions and risks,” Blanco says.

“In terms of growth, the next step is co-production or development of projects targeting the international market from the very beginning,” says Laura Miñarro, VP, international business, Atresmedia Studios, Atresmedia’s production arm.

“We’re in very exciting times: There are infinite combinations when co-producing,” says Méndez.

“Each production requires a different script, creative team or financing model, we’re making prototypes,” Blanco agrees.

Méndez believes “the natural path to grown is Latin America.” An increasing number of fiction co-production projects with the region suggests that the long sought after bridge between Spain and Latin America is finally being built, as globalization breaks down accent barriers in a market of 500 million people.

“For the last two years, there’s been a huge demand for Spanish content in Latin America,” says Ricardo Cabornero, responsible for content acquisitions, Amazon Prime Video Spain.

Amazon has boarded “Inés of My Soul,” partnering with Spain’s RTVE, Boomerang TV and Chilevision. “It’s the most ambitious series in either market [for Amazon]. We’ll see more of these types of co-productions in the future which allow us to be more ambitious,” he adds.

A driving force for Spanish TV fiction in Latin America, the Mediapro Studio boasts co-production deals with Disney Media Distribution, Vice Studios, Televisa and Viacom.

Another co-production example is TV drama “No te puedes esconder,” linking Madrid-based Isla Audiovisual to NBCUniversal’s Telemundo Global Studios.

Challenges remain. “There’s a risk of weakening our TV industry, adapting series from abroad. We must be exporters of our own content,” says Bambú co-founder Ramón Campos.

If the future depends on talent, there’s cause for optimism.

“When the bubble bursts what’s left? The best talent. A good number of those talents are now in Spain. So part of our destiny is in our hands,” says “Elite” creator Darío Madrona.

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