Mediapro Execs Explain Why Non-English Fare Is Thriving Amid 'Parasite' Success

Mediapro Execs Javier Mendez and Laura Fernández Espeso — Publicity — H 2020
© The Mediapro Studio

Javier Mendez and Laura Fernández Espeso, who are leading the Spanish content giant's global expansion, discuss strategy and sticking to their European roots as they go global.

To celebrate its 25th anniversary last year, Mediapro announced plans to conquer the world.

The Barcelona-based giant — Mediapro’s revenues in 2018 topped $2.18 billion — in April 2019 pledged a $224 million investment in Mediapro Studio, its rebranded international content division, staking out a bold strategy to become a truly global player with production and distribution operations across four continents.

The company’s international TV business is in full swing, with more than 30 productions developed in 12 countries in two years with partners including Amazon Prime, Viacom, Hulu, WarnerMedia and Disney.

On the film side, Mediapro is best known for co-producing Woody Allen’s Euro-set movies Midnight in Paris and Vicky Cristina Barcelona (as well as Allen’s upcoming Rifkin’s Festival, starring Elena Anaya and Christoph Waltz).

The Hollywood Reporter spoke to corporate director Laura Fernández Espeso and chief content officer Javier Mendez about strategy, the international potential, post-Parasite, of non-English-language productions, and why, as they go global, they are staying true to their European roots.

What unites Mediapro’s current slate of projects?

Javier Mendez: We’ve managed to situate ourselves as a reference in the production of the best international series and as an important player in Latin America. We’ve forged alliances for the creation of diverse content, and of course we’ve continued creating content for our domestic market.

Laura Fernández Espeso: And in nonfiction, in addition to continuing with our big, successful franchises, we’re also generating new franchises.

Is Mediapro more interested in co-producing and generating original content than in acquiring and selling rights from third parties?

Mendez: Both are important. Our configuration as the studio since March of 2019 allows us to design projects at every stage of the production value chain, from idea creation to development, conceptualization, production design with the group’s resources, production and postproduction, distribution and marketing of every project.

Fernández Espeso: All of that allows us a maximum process for quality control at every stage, always adjusting according to the partners and clients we’re working with.

Do you see the Hollywood studios as your competitors?

Mendez: The Hollywood studios are not competitors. They are more like a model and a reference of what can be done.

Fernández Espeso: They’re also our partners on different projects. Business models have changed a lot, and we’re creating more and more partnerships to produce together in different territories. We’re not being exclusive or competitors in any traditional sense of the word.

Mediapro Studio managing partner Jaume Roures has talked about the importance of preserving Europe’s "cultural richness." How is this reflected in your work?

Mendez: Mediapro Studio’s investment in all the creative talent we work with has led us to the creation of a space where storytellers on our continent can work freely. We feel we have that responsibility, and part of our mission at the studio is to provide opportunities for that talent to develop and triumph.

Fernández Espeso: A lot of our productions contribute to the preservation of Europe’s cultural heritage. We tell local stories that go global, we export our diversity. We’ve opened up opportunities from Europe that have allowed us to reach international markets and audiences.

Are you seeing evidence, particularly after the best picture Oscar win for Parasite, that U.S. audiences are warming to non-English-language fare?

Mendez: It’s obvious that the arrival of global operators like Netflix, Amazon and Apple has allowed for a true globalization of audiences.

Fernández Espeso: We have sold our series to more than 145 countries over the past 20 years, but the arrival of the platforms is what has allowed people from all over the world to discover series filmed in Spanish, which is no longer an obstacle for success.

Where is Mediapro Studio looking to expand in the next few years?

Mendez: The Mediapro Studio is working toward increasing our presence in Latin America, gradually entering the English-speaking market and seeking alliances with other European groups that can help us increase our production in those territories.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's Feb. 21 daily issue at the Berlin Film Festival.