Spanish TV on way out via Imagina

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Spain's newest powerhouse in TV and film rights, Imagina International Sales, has inked two groundbreaking deals to market its product independently of Spanish broadcasters and signed a raft of deals that mark a new trend in Spanish television exports, executives said Tuesday.

Imagina has signed an exclusive three-year deal with private TV network Antena 3 to handle international sales on all product produced by Globomedia, Spain's most prolific TV producer and the key component of the consortium created this year to pool product from some of Spain's key TV production houses, international general manager Jose Huertas said at a presentation to evaluate the company's first six months.

Imagina has signed a similar agreement with rival TV channel Cuatro for its upcoming series "Countdown," which covers the duration of the series' life on the Spanish broadcaster.

"These are very important deals for us because they allow us to maximize profits on our series," Huertas said. "We're not better or worse, but we are different than a sales operation within a broadcaster's apparatus. It makes us the only sales agent for the product in the marketplace."

Imagina is the first Spanish TV sales agent to offer original product and format as a one-stop shop.

"We started noticing three or four years ago a growing interest in formats given that we have different slots here," Huertas said. "Elsewhere, everyone works with programs of half an hour or an hour, which are too short for Spain and so they need to be adapted or edited for other markets."

Sales director Geraldine Gonard unveiled sales to more than 30 countries, with some programming — like the detective series "Countdown" — fetching €1 million ($1.4 million).

"One Step Ahead" will be the first Spanish series to air in Russia after CTC Network picked up the original version along with dubbed versions of "The Serrano" and "7 Lives."

"Five years after its launch in Spain, 'One Step Ahead' is Spain's most international series, having sold to more than 20 countries," Gonard said, pointing out that after its debut in Russia, the show will air in Albania and an adaptation has been picked up for the Czech Republic. France's M6 also is signed up for the next season.

"There is a growing interest in Eastern Europe for Spanish production, which is deemed high quality with solid scripts, good stories and a long run," Gonard said. "It's a market that is only going to continue to grow."

Hip series "SMS," revolving around the mobile phone culture, and "Paco's Men" were picked up for the former Yugoslav territories, while Slovenia's RTV bought a package of films and documentaries and HBO Central Europe bought the recently released feature film "Black Coffee."

"Countdown," yet to be released in Spain, sold to France's TF1 for a 2008 launch. The show will have a first run on pay TV channel 13eme Rue in September.

Meanwhile, Turkey and Greece will each have their own versions of the locally flavored "Aida."

"Our series are very expensive for what we can earn back locally," Huertas said. "We've had to turn our efforts to the international market with high-quality product."

Declining to say what percentage of Imagina's revenue derives from exports, Huertas said that some products regain 20% of their investment from sales abroad, with "One Step Ahead" recovering about 45% of the overall investment via international sales.

"We have a brand that means quality fiction series," Huertas said. "There is a standard of quality that is hard to appreciate locally but is very apparent when you go outside our borders."
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