Movistar Plus Expands Into Nonfiction Territory

·3-min read

Since 2017, when it released its first original production, “Velvet Collection,” Movistar Plus has produced and aired 45 original or returning series in Spain.

Now it’s looking to raise the ante, investing more in original production than ever before, says Movistar Plus president Sergio Oslé.

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“Original production is a brutal anti-churn driver. Consumption of our original content is directly linked to customer satisfaction and consequently to loyalty,” says Movistar Plus CEO Cristina Burzako.

“In such a disruptive environment with a huge proliferation of brands and platforms and somehow, with some fatigue of entertainment, we must ensure we deliver a complete, personalized and curated entertainment proposal.”

This involves “integrating all key global brands [although they tend not to be exclusive deals anymore] and building our original production, which is more important than ever to drive differentiation.”

Building original production now cuts several ways. Movistar Plus is maintaining its original series output. It is also plowing more into non-fiction.

At September’s San Sebastian Festival, the pay TV/SVOD unit of Telefonica will host a gala screening of an episode from Movistar Plus Original “Raphaelismo.” A four-part doc series portrait of Raphael, Spain’s first crooner, his looks, dramatic onstage gestures and exacting pronunciation.

Upcoming shows take in Iñigo Ruiz’s “The Legacy of el Bulli,” selected for San Sebastian’s Culinary Zinema section, an observant present-day portrait of Ferràn Adrià, icon of the new Nouvelle Cuisine, and his lasting legacy worldwide; “Lola,” about firebrand matriarch Lola Flores, who opened flamenco up to broader artistic influence; and “El corazón del Imperio,” vignettes of the women, often now ignored, who made the Roman Empire great.

Movistar Plus’ drive into non-fiction mirrors that of global platforms, whose doc series account for some of their biggest hits, and most acclaimed titles. Spain in particular offers rich opportunities for non-fiction. It has an extraordinary past, often little explored.

Released earlier this year, another Movistar Original, Alvaro Ron’s four-part doc series “Palomares: The Atomic Bomb Fiasco,” a stranger-than-fiction doc thriller about how in 1966 the U.S. Air Force accidentally dropped four hydrogen bombs on Spain. “Raphaelismo” marks the first portrait with the singer’s collaboration of a recording artist whose records, in his ’60s heyday could sell more than the Beatles in Latin America.

Documentaries these days have the ability to bring little-known stories, or little-known aspects of stories, to life, by vibrantly creating the past with far more means than the clunky techniques of old. “Palomares,” for instance, weaves delightful cinematic-quality reconstruction of 1966 Spain with eyewitness accounts, expert analysis and never-seen archive footage.

The large question now is if Movistar Plus will also diversify into cinema production. It already produced Alejandro Amenábar’s “While at War,” a singular portrait of aged writer Miguel de Unamuno, which was one of Spain’s biggest box office hits of 2018. In the run-up to San Sebastian, Movistar Plus announced it was teaming with Madrid-based Atípica Films to produce “Modelo 77,” a period penitentiary drama-thriller feature directed by Alberto Rodríguez and written by Rafael Cobos and Rodríguez, the creative powerhouses behind Movistar Plus banner series “The Plague,” which world premiered at San Sebastian in 2017.

“The only distribution strategy these days, the only way to survive, is if you have something that you can do that is exclusive to you and belongs to your brand,” says Oslé.

The major reason for driving into film production is to maintain a relationship with some of the greatest creative talents in Spain, says Domingo Corral, Movistar Plus director of original production.

“The key is to back stories that carry their own singular voice, and which talk about our realities.”

The only question is now whether Movistar Plus will move from isolated movie announcements to the confirmation of a slate.

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