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Spanish TV Biz Eyes Bigger Global Platform, Via Co-Production, and Drawing on Talents From a New Creative Generation

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This year, Spain has more titles at the Berlinale’s two TV showcases, Co-Pro Series and Berlinale Market Selects, than any other country in the world— a total of four shows, beating the U.S. with one, and even Germany, which has three.

On top of that, running Feb. 19-20 at the fest’s CinemaxX screening hub, the Spanish showcase at the Berlinale

Market Series highlights three more shows and features a panel, in what may be the big- gest national TV showcase at 2024’s Berlin Festival.

What this bullish presence says about the state of the state of Spanish TV production is an- other matter. Seven key takes:

Second-Phase Boom

Spain’s Berlin bonanza is only natural. Netflix scored its first global TV blockbuster with Spain’s “Money Heist” in 2018, and now the country is now riding a second wave as a strong supplier of the global streamer. In 2023, Spanish film and TV titles ranked No. 1 on the Netflix global non-English Top 10 charts for 13 weeks, only bettered by South Korea. In Berlin, the Spanish showcase kicks off on Feb. 19 with a Secuoya Studios presentation, which drills down on the strategies and ambitions of the producer of “Montecristo” and “Zorro.”

“Spain is so popular in the co-production and originals market. There’s a giant Spanish-speaking audience. ‘Zorro’ is doing gangbusters for Amazon in Latin and North America and ‘Montecristo’ was the No. 1 show on ViX in 2023,” notes Roy Ashton, a parter at the Gersh Agency.

Co-Production: The New Name of the Game

“With the arrival of global platforms, the high demand for series has ramped up costs and production levels have risen. Co-production can give you a series for 60% or 70% of the costs,” says José Pastor, director of fiction and film at pubcaster RTVE. A good example is “This Is Not Sweden,” showcased in Berlin last year, that RTVE produced with Catalonia’s 3Cat, Sweden’s SVT, Finland’s YLE and Germany’s NRD, is another.

Co-producing can also open up European Union Media Program funding, or, in the case of 3Cat, Catalan government grants of €1.5 million ($1.6 million) per series. “RTVE has to gain relevance in Europe,” Pastor adds. Given the crisis in Nordic TV financing, and the success of “This Is Not Sweden,” Scandinavian companies could be ready partners.

A New Creative Generation

Coping with much higher fiction output, producers are not only tapping young screenwriters but also drawing on creators famed in other fields who are moving into or adapting scripted fiction: Shows screening this year at Berlin include “Red Flags,” created by novelist and playwright Nando López; immigrant crisis story “Law of the Sea,” from comedian Flipy; “Show Yourself,” from Alvaro Carmona, a writer from comedic late-night show “Buenafuente”; “and Zorras” is an adaptation of a novel by Noemi Casquet. “The good health of the Spanish fiction industry is allowing creators, producers and directors to change genre and format with a certain ease. Just a few years ago, that was unthinkable, and is a sign of consolidation,” says Samuel Castro, co-director, Iberseries & Platino Industria.

“We not only feature emerging writers but also collaborate with successful creators in other fields. This ensures a dynamic mix of new and experienced talent to deliver quality stories that captivate global audiences,” says Atresmedia TV’s head of acquisitions and sales, Jose Antonio Salso.

The Range of Young Adult Drama

Three series, all Atresplayer Originals — “Red Flags,” “Zorras” and “Show Yourself” — screen at the Berlinale Series Market. All three chart the pursuit of true identity among its teen to 20some- thing protagonists, targeting YA audiences. But YA is not a genre, it’s an audience play. “‘Zorras’ is a comedy centered on friendship, providing a distinctive perspective and funny approach to sexual fantasies among young women,” says Salso.

“‘Red Flags’ narrates a realistic coming-of-age tale, capturing the essence of Generation Z’s experiences. Meanwhile, ‘Show Yourself’ is a surrealistic comedy set in a dystopian universe, exploring themes like identity, loneliness and family dynamics.”

Genre Bend or Blend

“There are tons of narco and gangster thrillers. In ‘Marbella,’ we try to find a new way in, using the point of view of a defense attorney who allows organized crime to function like legal businesses,” says Fran Araujo, executive producer on the new Movistar Plus+ Original. “Executioners,” at the Berlinale’s Co-Pro Series, blends a coming-of-age suspense thriller and ethical drama, while “Death to Love” is a vampire narrative, a LGBTQ tale and romantic dramedy dissecting the dynamics of love.

Secuoya’s Playbook

“Streamers are looking for big content but at a lower price,” Secuoya Group president Raúl Berdonés said at a Content Americas keynote. How to square that circle?

Windowing, he answered. “It allows platforms to [use] the content where they think it will work best, and producers to retain IP and sell elsewhere.”

That and other strategies look set to be explored Feb. 19 at a panel on Secuoya Studios, which has skillfully leveraged cost differentials. For example, Secouya’s “Zorro,” set in 1837 California, was sold to Prime Video for North and Latin America and shoot in the eco- nomically beneficial Madrid and the Canary Islands.