Movistar+ is the unified brand for the pay TV and SVOD operations of Spanish national telecoms group Telefónica. The group, which also has extensive interests in Latin America, has managed a rapid transition of its pay TV subscription base from satellite to IPTV since acquiring the Canal+ pay TV operations. At the same time, it has built its own local Spanish SVoD service, also called Movistar+. Earlier this year, Movistar+ announced a big push into original content with a pledge to become the world’s largest supplier of Spanish-language content and a €70m original drama budget. Beginning with four series in 2017, original production will ramp up rapidly to 10 series a year from 2018, with many more in development.
Guy Bisson: What do you see as the key trends in the content market at the moment, particularly with regard to scripted drama?
Domingo Corral (Head of Original Programming, Movistar+): The key trend is a lot of production is getting made for pay TV streaming services and the nature of those productions is different from how it used to be with traditional TV series. Some of the characteristics are that they are serialised; they normally have a division of a few creatives, so they are creator-driven; and from a script standpoint they are character-driven and they assume risks that were not previously assumed in TV. They have also been developed to be viewed on-demand, and not on a linear channel.
> So what are the differences for something made to be viewed on-demand vs. linear?
Well, for linear you also have to make the distinction between a pay TV linear channel and a commercial linear channel, because when it’s a pay TV linear channel you can assume certain risks and do the scripted fiction in a different way to content made for a channel which economic model is based on advertising. For streaming services, like Netflix, Amazon and Movistar+, the two main differences are that they are pay TV and secondly that they are streaming. With streaming you can watch whenever you want so you have more freedom, you can binge view so this has an impact on how you structure the story. You don’t have to put everything in the first episode and let the viewer know everything and be very explicit straight away. You have more time to develop your characters and the stories.
> To what extent is this driven by a competitive response to new SVOD platforms like Netflix?
In our case it is not a response to Netflix, we started original content development two years ago. It is a response to our own needs. We need our own distinctive content that is exclusive, so making originals is one way to do that. TV has become so critical for our overall offer…our connectivity offer, our broadband offer…. TV is so important you can not only rely on third party acquisition. You have to combine both and combine acquisition with your own originals.
> How would you describe Movistar+’s strategy with regard to original production?
Firstly we have put a lot of effort into developing the scripts, so development is key. And within development the way we approach the script is through the characters. These are character-driven stories that we are looking for, they have to have a distinctive vision, so it’s important to know the creators behind those stories. Another characteristic is the high production values. They have to have high production values, not just for Spain, but for the whole world. They have to be able to compete internationally. And finally, I would say you need shows that are targeted to specific audiences. It’s not a mandate to reach everyone with one show, the mandate is to reach everyone with a wide variety of shows.
> What’s the plan around wider distribution of the originals?
Our intention is to sell our content all over the world and I believe you can do this by making content that is on one side very local, but that is told in a universal way. That includes the way you build the characters and tell the story, but also the production value that you put into the show. The combination: local, and at the same time universal, is key.
> Do you think that being able to take Spanish-language content more global (beyond Spanish-speaking markets) is a new development?
We tend to think LatAm is the natural market for Spanish fiction, but when you do something that is really good, you can sell it everywhere. Probably the most difficult markets are the English markets like the UK and the US, because they don’t dub, so it’s more challenging to find an audience with subtitles. But in markets where they dub like Germany or France, or even in the US with the 50m Hispanic audience, we have an opportunity. When you watch one of these original shows you have to think it’s a Spanish show coming from Spain. You have to reflect a very local reality, but the way the story is told has to be told with high standards in story and production value.
> What considerations are needed to make a non-English language drama a global seller?
What drives your show in TV is a unique distinctive vision and that is given by the creators of the show. So we make our decisions on who is behind the show. The creators are critical, the second thing is the script and the third is the production value. You have to give the talent the resources to make the story in the way they want to make it.
> I’ve heard mixed views on whether there is a scripted bubble right now, what’s your view?
Definitely not in Spain. Maybe with English drama, but I can’t really say that either. Definitely there are more shows to watch, but you have many books published each year and you don’t get to read them all, you can’t see all the films made or all the music that is made. In TV before, we had a few networks making a small number of shows and now with the arrival of Netflix and Amazon they are making many more shows and we can’t see them all. So, as long as it makes sense to make all these shows there is no bubble. The important thing is that you are happy with the shows that you do see.
> Are you co-producing your originals?
In the first stage no, because we wanted to move quickly and co-productions take time because you have to find the right partner and negotiate the deal. But we want to co-produce, and in the near future we will announce one or two co-productions.
> What do you look for in a co-production partner?
Co-production should not be an issue of money. Money is important, of course, and I always want them to be cost effective for sure, but it shouldn’t be the number one consideration. You have to make content with someone with whom you share a creative vision because, in the end, making content is a very subjective thing. What you think is good and what I think is good may be very different, but we may be both right. You must find a partner with a shared vision. The second key thing is that someone has to lead. I don’t believe in these co-productions where you put a German, a French, an English, a Spanish and then you make a co-production. Whatever you put in the story has to come organically from the story, not in post from above because you are making a coproduction. Someone has to lead and someone has to follow. If you create a co-production where everyone has the same power it’s likely that will get nowhere. So co-productions are very welcome, I am looking for them, but I have to find the right partner sharing the same vision and making sure someone is leading.
Domingo Corral’s MIPCOM Mastermind Keynote on Monday, October 16, at 12.05 in the Grand Auditorium. He will expand on many of the above points in his upcoming keynote. He is due to be joined on stage by Beta Film’s Jan Mojto, Sky Vision’s Jane Millichip and by some of the creators of upcoming original drama in an up-close and personal look at the strength of Movistar+’s slate.
Find out more about SVoD Content Strategies: The Drive for Originality in Ampere Analysis’ exclusive white paper, here!