No telecom in Europe has driven into original production with such energy as Spain’s Telefonica. Since its first series, “Velvet Collection,” bowed in Sept. 2017, its pay TV operator, Movistar Plus, has produced 21 original series, 13 returning seasons and one original film, Alejandro Amenábar’s “While At War.”
These titles include quite possibly the biggest scripted series ever made in Spain, “The Plague,” set in 1580s’ Seville, Canneseries winner “A Perfect Life,” Rose d’Or laureate “Arde Madrid” and a string of series, most recently “The Invisible Line,” about the buildup to ETA’s first assassination, that proved more popular on Movistar Plus than the Real Madrid-Barca F.C. soccer clásico.
Conecta Fiction caught Corral as Telefonica and Atresmedia, have just launched Buendía Estudios, a series/movies production joint venture. Corral, a lesson in humility, did use his Conecta Fiction keynote, however, to set the record right on a clutch of issues, and sound a note of creative ambition for upcoming series from Movistar Plus. Following, five takeaways from an online conversation:.
Competing with Netflix et al.
“There’s a train of thought that says that we cannot compete with the U.S. streamers because they have this scale and big budgets,” Corral said. That could prove a self-fulfilling prophesy, he argued. “Every time I hear that I wonder what’s the alternative? That for local European players would be to surrender. I’m a huge fan of the U.S. streamers, but the alternative would be for all of Europe’s audiovisual culture, its artistic component, to be in the hands of six-or-seven huge U.S. streamers. Of course, we can compete!” Corral said, sounding a note of passion.
One major way to compete is simply to partner with some of the biggest of U.S. companies out, Corral argued, citing Alejandro Amenábar’s upcoming adventure thriller series “La Fortuna,” co-produced with AMC Studios; a production-distribution alliance with Telemundo Intl. Studios whose first fruit, “Tell Me Who I Am,” screens at the San Sebastian Festival; and distribution deals with HBO Latin America.
Another misconception. “You might have read in papers that it’s been designed to compete with Netflix,and other streamers. But it’s the complete opposite,” Corral said. “The intention of Buendía is to make shows for all the streaming platforms,” he added. Corral’s own responsibility, however, is to make shows for Movistar Plus, nothing else, he clarified.
Movistar Plus: No Volume Business
Off the back of its investment in soccer – it holds rights to European Champions League and Spain’s LaLiga tourneys – Movistar Plus has emerged as Spain’s biggest content investor. “In lockdown, people suggested an insatiable desire to watch content. Is that an indication of the success of drama series?” asked keynote moderator Richard Middleton, TBI Intl. editor. Not at all, Corral replied,arguing that an indicator of success is if you make good shows, not the amount of shows you make. We’re definitely not into volume success. We’re – I don’t know if it’s the best word – more boutique.”
In the Hopper
Movistar Plus releases “Skam Spain 4,” its last season, on Sept. 6. Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s first series as a show runner, “Riot Police,” world premieres in its entirety in Official Selection at late September’s San Sebastian Festival, the first Spanish series to ever do so, It will then be made available to Movistar Plus subscribers from Oct. 16. That will be followed by “Nasdrovia,” a comedy-drama tracking an ex-couple’s excruciating descent into hell, as they open a restaurant which becomes a home-from-home for the Russian mob. Rounding up the year is “Tell Me Who I Am,” based on a bestseller by Spain’s Julia Navarro, about a woman, Amelia Garayoa, who experiences some of the major events of the 20th century, such as the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War, Stalin’s communist U.S.S.R., the barbarity of Warsaw’s ghettos, Rome in the final years of Mussolini and the 1945 liberation of Berlin.
The Key to Success
“We try to make shows that are unique, very relevant, very authentic and very different, one to another,” Corral argues.
That said, upcoming Movistar Plus shows all appeal to more sophisticated audiences, all four have women protagonists, and two attempt to understand characters that many viewers might find condemn. “Riot Police” explores the private lives of a police squad, after its bungles an eviction, sparking tragedy and an internal affairs investigation. In “Tell Me Who I Am,” in order to fight for freedom, Amelia Garayoa abandons her husband and son. Many would question that act, if committed by a woman, even these days.
More from Variety
Best of Variety
Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.