Spain's Imagina grows int'l TV sales


MADRID -- 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 has signed a raft of deals that mark new trends in Spanish television exports, executives announced 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 earlier 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, high-quality series "Countdown" for 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 of company product to more than 30 countries, with some products fetching €1 million ($1.4 million).

"One Step Ahead" -- which stars Monica Cruz -- 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 following its debut in Russia the show will air in Albania and an adaptation was picked up for the Czech Republic. France's M6 has 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," a series based on urgency with deadlines, yet to be released in Spain, sold to France's TF1 for a launch in 2008. The show will have a first run for pay TV channel 13eme Rue in September.

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

Latin America, always a strong market for Spanish product, proved fruitful for Imagina in its first six months with Mexico's Canal 28 picking up "Paco's Men" and "The Serrano" and TV Azteca continuing its successful run of "My Lovely Neighbors" and "Aida." Venezuela's Teves acquired "Journalists" and "One Step Ahead."

"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 some products regain 20% of the investment from sales abroad, with "One Step Ahead," recovering some 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."

Huertas also confirmed that Imagina would continue to focus its energy primarily on television product, despite also handling sales on partner company Mediapro's film projects.

"Film is more complicated to sell," Huertas said. "The energy involved in negotiations is the same, while the profit on film is marginal compared to television and it takes time to evaluate how satisfied the client is with the product."