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MADRID — Word that HBO executive James Costos is in line to become the next U.S. Ambassador to Spain is making waves in the Spanish media, even though President Obama has yet to officially nominate Costos for the post, and the appointment would still have to be approved by the U.S. Senate.
The Spanish media focused not only on the fact that Costos would come with his partner — famed decorator Michael S. Smith — and would be the first high-profile, openly gay man in the post, but also that Costos would likely focus energy on fighting Spain’s rampant digital content piracy. Costos is vice president of global licensing and retail, consumer marketing for HBO. Costos and Smith are currently based in Los Angeles.
“HBO series, like Sex in the City, The Newsroom or Veep, are among the victims of online piracy, one of the main worries of the American concerns about Spain,” Spanish daily El Mundo wrote this weekend in a two-page spread speculating on Costos and Smith’s potential imminent arrival in the country. “If his appointment is confirmed, Costos will be particularly sensitive to this subject and ready to pressure the Spanish government to control the illegal downloads of video and books.”
A 2012 GFK study for the Anti-Piracy Federation estimated that some 84 percent of digital content consumed in Spain comes from illegal downloads.
American diplomacy has repeatedly highlighted the issue with Spanish officials and voiced anger at their reluctance to act decisively, with present U.S. Ambassador Alan Solomont threatening to put Spain on a U.S. trade blacklist if it didn’t resolve the problem.
There is a long-established tradition of presidents rewarding their biggest donors with choice ambassadorships, and it is no secret that power couple Costos-Smith were among the biggest Hollywood bundlers for the Obama re-election campaign. Speculation has been running high in Hollywood for weeks about whom from the industry Obama would choose for a raft of European diplomatic posts. Apart from Costos, Emmy-nominated television producer Colleen Bell is said to be in line for Belgium or Hungary, while Tennis Channel chief Ken Solomon is in the mix as a possible appointee for later in Obama’s term.
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