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Telefónica in $75m originals pledge

La Peste is billed as Telefónica’s flagship show

La Peste is billed as Telefónica’s flagship show

NATPE: Telefónica is aiming to become the world’s leading supplier of Spanish content after committing €70m (US$75m) to original series in 2017, with a target of producing 14 by the end of next year.

The Spanish telecoms giant launched the initiative out of its domestic arm Movistar+, which has its own pay TV operations, last year but has now given details about its plans.

It will produce four original series this year with another 10 coming in 2018 from a slate of 20 currently in development.

The first, La Peste (6×50’), is being billed as Telefónica’s flagship show. Made on a budget of €10m, it is set in Seville in the 16th Century, during a bubonic plague epidemic.

The series comes from Atípica Films and director Alberto Rodríguez (Marshland), with José Antonio Félez exec producing. Shooting is taking place in more than 130 locations.

Telefónica España CEO Luis Miguel Gilpérez said that Movistar, which has 3.7 million subscribers, was aiming to revitalise a “sluggish market, with an average penetration rate well below the European one.”

The company claims 33% market share following its 2015 acquisition of the Spanish Canal+ business from Prisa, in a country still struggling after the global financial downturn.

“Movistar+ will soon become the main original content hub in Spanish,” said Gilpérez. “We have decided to boost and revitalise an audiovisual industry that has been hard hit by the crisis. We will hire the top national talent to produce drama nationally with cinema-level production standards. This effort will be sustained with an investment of €70m this year in original series.”

Movistar+ original production director Domingo Corral said La Peste set the tone for the company’s ambitions.

“We are not just producing one or two series each year but 10 in 2018, an unprecedented production effort across all pay-per-view hubs,” he said, naming two other titles – La Zona and Vergüenza – that are set to debut this year, alongside another as-yet unnamed show.

Movistar has been a buyer of foreign-language series for some time but is short on local-language content, and with overseas players like Netflix and HBO encroaching on its turf, the company has decided to up its game.

But Gilpérez was quick to distinguish Telefónica from its rivals, citing the telco’s combination of television, optical fibre and mobile network interests.

“We are not a vertical catalogue of films and series. We are a player combining the best content – 16,000 titles altogether and more than 660 series – and the best connectivity, the best technical functionalities and the finest client knowledge – four features no competitor can meet,” he said.

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