Spain's Telefonica and Atresmedia Form Production Joint Venture to Take on Netflix

Money Heist- Publicity Still - H 2019
Tamara Arranz Ramos

The 50/50 joint venture could give Netflix a run for its money with Spanish-language product made for the local and international markets.

Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica, owner of pay TV platform Movistar+, is set to form a production joint venture with media group Atresmedia to co-finance and produce Spanish-language series and movies for the local and international market, the two companies announced Friday.

The new venture will produce content for Telefonica's Movistar+ and Atresmedia's free-to-air channels Antena 3 and La Sexta. Plans additionally encompass co-productions as well as productions for other networks.

And the move also clearly has Netflix in its sights. The streaming giant has had major success with its Spanish-language series, including Money Heist (originally an Atresmedia production), Elite and Cable Girls. Netflix set up its first European production hub in Spain earlier this year.

The joint press release Friday suggests the companies will "combine talent and resources to optimize and gain scale in the business of creation and distribution of contents, being more competitive in the face of big international players who continue to appear on the scene of a globalized sector."

Thanks in part to Netflix's presence and uptick in local production over the last three years, other streaming platforms and international players have increased their own productions in Spain, including HBO España, Amazon Originals and Viacom. Spain boasts relatively low costs combined with an experienced production sector.

Movistar+ head of original fiction programming Domingo Corral told The Hollywood Reporter recently that their production plans envisioned an annual investment of $78 million in original content, including around a dozen series and two feature films per year. Local reports place the new venture's investment at more than double that amount.

"The change in Spain in the last 3-4 years is undeniable," Corral said. "There are more players making content and making series and in my opinion that's all positive … I think it makes us all better because it makes you think harder about how to be different, how to be original, how to deliver a good-quality show. Because in the end, the time the viewer has is very limited and you want to give them the best possible show you can."

Movistar's first feature, While at War, competed in Toronto and is playing this week at the San Sebastian International Film Festival (Sept 20-28). Other projects include a series from War director Alejandro Amenabar, The Treasure of the Black Swan, season two of major local production The Plague, erotic thriller Instinto and, just announced this week, a new series from director Roger Gual (Cable Girls) called Los Espabilados.

Last January, Movistar+ signed a deal with Telemundo International Studios to create products for the U.S. and international markets. Movistar+ also works regularly with other European partners like Beta Film and StudioCanal.

Atresmedia, which has grown a major profile in the Spanish production sector, launched Atresmedia Studios in 2017 with the goal "of creating and designing exclusive fiction content for the new operators on the market and the new distribution and exhibition platforms, at the national and international level," as well as to distribute Atresmedia's catalog of original titles.

The studio's first major series, Money Heist creator Alex Pina's series The Pier, aired on Movistar+. The two companies had previously paired on Velvet Collection, the sequel to the hit period drama Velvet, from Cable Girls producers Bambú Producciones.

Atresmedia Studios is also producing the series La Templanza for Amazon Originals, and its film arm, Atresmedia Cine, has built on a tradition at Atresmedia of backing films with clear commercial potential.