Spain’s Production Hub Heats Up

·5-min read

Seismic shifts in the world’s entertainment industry have thrown a global spotlight on Spain’s film and TV industry as never before.

Foreign productions are flocking to Spain, spending €263 million ($266 million) in 2021, double the 2016-19 average, according to a ProFilm study. International inward investment in national productions has also grown on an unprecedented scale.

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All the big streamers have beached in Spain. Reed Hastings cut the tape on Netflix’s first European Production Hub, in Madrid’s Tres Cantos, in 2019. Viacom Intl. Studios (VIS) EMEA and Asia and AMC Networks Intl. Southern Europe have set up production operations in Spain. Other players — Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max and Starzplay — run offices in the country.

Capitalizing on such a massive presence, in March 2021 the federal government announced an AVS Hub plan aimed at sinking $1.6 billion into the entertainment industry. It is designed to turn Spain into one of the foremost film and TV hubs in Europe, with exports and the big shoot scene expected to grow 30% by 2025.

“The boom in OTT operators has been an opportunity for the international reach of the sector,” says Pablo Conde, director of fashion, habitat and cultural industries at the government investment organization ICEX, a key player in the AVS Hub plan.

“Platforms have come to Spain because they realized local productions were really working there. Writers and series were successful and that gave traction to the rest of production,” says Christophe Vidal, deputy CEO at Paris-based Coficiné, which has been a lender in the Spanish market for more than 20 years.

Spain has a talent pool, incentives and lower production costs than most elsewhere in Western Europe, he adds.

Remarkably, as of Aug. 14, seven of the 20 titles in Netflix’s Top 10 non-English language series and films are Spanish, led by Alex Pina’s “Money Heist.”

Ampere Analysis suggests that Netflix alone invested $303 million last year in Spanish originals, a figure higher than that for any other country in Europe, apart from the U.K. “When we decided to produce in Spain, we already admired the great talent characterizing its industry. Time confirmed our intuition: Fiction made in Spain has the ability to connect inside and outside our borders; people wanted to see different stories,” says Diego Ávalos, Netflix’s VP of original content in Spain.

In 2021, Netf lix doubled its Tres Cantos soundstages to 10, adding advanced post-production facilities. Since arriving in 2017, Prime Video has continuously increased investment in original content. Upcoming releases include Daniel Benmayor’s Federation-produced film “Awareness” and TV dramas “Reina Roja,” a Dopamine-Focus production, and “Los Farad,” produced by Mod.

“Spain is a very important territory for us, for the incomparable talent — in front of and behind the camera — as well as high levels of production and a large number of very versatile natural locations,” says Koro Castellano, Prime Video Spain director.

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“Obviously, productions in Spanish have an international projection and connection with Latin America.”Disney+’s first Spanish original series, “Balenciaga,” which follows haute couture icon Cristóbal Balenciaga, and “La última,” starring “Elite’s” Miguel Bernardeau, form part of a 21-strong fiction/docuseries Spanish project slate greenlit by Disney in Europe.

“The objective in terms of content production for Disney+ throughout Europe is very ambitious, and within this project, Spain has a very prominent role,” says Sofía Fábregas, VP of original productions, Disney+ in Spain.

From its offices near Madrid, AMC Networks Intl. Southern Europe plans to “try to capitalize on several projects throughout 2022-2023 that will allow us to increase localization of themes in a very clear way,” says Manuel Balsera, executive VP, AMC Networks Intl. Southern Europe. AMC Studios has developed TV dramas with Spain led by Alejandro Amenábar’s Movistar Plus+ hit “La Fortuna.”

“Starzplay chose Spain to set up its first-ever homegrown originally produced series ‘Express’ because it was obvious to us that it is already a leading hub for audiovisual production,” says Superna Kalle, president of international networks at Starz.

After “Express,” from “Locked Up’s” Iván Escobar, produced with the Mediapro Studio, Starzplay is producing bioseries “Nacho,” partnering with Bambú and La Claqueta, and developing projects such as “X-Rey,” scripted by Howard Gordon (“Homeland,” “24”), about former king Juan Carlos I.

“Spain is one of VIS’ key Spanish-language production hubs,” says Madrid-based Laura Abril, who heads and manages productions in Europe, West Asia, Asia and Africa, together with the local teams. “We are perfectly positioned to capitalize on the growing demand for locally relevant, premium content for Paramount+, from some of the world’s most revered creatives,” she says.

After wrapping production on the Paramount+ original series “Bosé,” teaming with Banijay’s Shine Iberia, Elefantec and Legacy Rock, it’s developing “Church Pastor” by Natxo López with Fasten Films, and has produced “When You Least Expect It,” with Zeta Studios.

Through VIS, Paramount+ holds down dozens of partnerships with top Spanish-language talent such as Juan José Campanella, Pedro Almodóvar, Penélope Cruz, Isabel Coixet and Rodrigo Sorogoyen.
“Now with the increased focus on Spain, we expect to expand our talent partnerships even further, enabling us to increase production of authentic, Spanish-language stories,” Abril adds.

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