Telefonica, Atresmedia to Create Content Factory Behemoth

John Hopewell

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SAN SEBASTIAN  — In a game-changing move for Spanish-language production Telefonica, Europe’s third biggest telco, and Atresmedia, the original co-creators of “La Casa de Papel,” are uniting to create a new joint contents production giant.

Aimed at gaining more scale and uniting talent relations – writers, directors and producers – the 50/50 joint venture will produce both series and feature films, focusing on fiction, the new partners announced Friday.

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The partners have taken the first move towards the creation of the new production force, signing  framework agreement, they added.

Both a product and distribution alliance, the new contents factory will look to bring in further co-production partners on many projects and create titles for third partner companies.

The agreement, which has to be approved by a Telefonica commission, was sealed by Atresmedia CEO Silvio Rodríguez and Emilio Gayo, president of Telefonica Spain.

The move has been made to face off with global streaming platform, established and set to launch, making the partners “more competitive to face up to large international players which continue to emerging in a globalized sector,” the partners said in a written statement Friday.

Atresmedia and Telefonica, via Atresmedia Studios and Telefonica’s pay TV unit Movistar in Spain, have already linked to produce “The Pier,” created by “La Casa de Papel’s” Alex Pina and Esther Martínez Lobato. The new agreement will take their collaboration to another level, however.

Thanks to a massive statement buy of soccer rights, both LaLiga and Champions League, Movistar is Spain’s No. 1 content player, investing €841.1 million ($925.2 million) in programming this year, according to IHS Markit estimates. Atresmedia ranks third, with a €607.3 million ($668.0 million) investment.

For Telefonica, the Atresmedia alliance goes a long way to furthering its strategic goals as it faces off with a far larger number of global competitors.

One priority, Sergio Oslé, Movistar Plus president, told Variety earlier this month, is to “take bold steps in gaining scale more rapidly by collaborating more closely with both international and local content providers.”

Another is to “experiment more purposefully on different windows, especially (but not only) for movies.”

“As an industry we haven’t quite figured out the optimal release time for each screen,” he added. “In Movistar+, we’ve been very rigid when it comes to windows. Should we release movies or even series in cinemas? Should we consider a free-to-air window at some point?”

Partnering with Atresmedia, Telefonica now has the opportunity for joint series to play on the broadcast network’s free-to-air and SVOD services in Spain plus possibly its cable network in Latin America, the biggest of any company in Europe.

For Atresmedia, producer of multiple milestone Spanish series which have already grown audiences for Spanish series abroad -“Grand Hotel,” “Velvet,” “Vis-a-Vis” (“Locked Up”) –  the agreement will allow it to ramp up scale as top players are producing at ever higher production ambition – evident in Netflix’s “La Casa de Papel” Part 3, which is set in three continents, and boasts a far more full-on action impact compared to the first two parts.

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