Netflix may have been the first to crack the key European market with locally produced hit 'Money Heist,' but the streamer is now facing heated competition from the likes of Amazon, HBO, Viacom and local player Movistar, which are all vying for Spanish talent and content.
When Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos took the stage at the world premiere of the third season of the streamer's international hit, Money Heist, in July, he was met with loud cheers and applause from the packed house at Madrid's downtown Callao Cinema.
Outside, fans had amassed in front of the theater while ushers, donning red jumpsuits and Salvador Dali masks — as used by the outlaws in the series — managed the foot traffic.
"It's a great honor to be with you tonight for the world premiere of La Casa de Papel," Sarandos said, pronouncing the Spanish title with an American accent to the delight of the audience.
"This show is extraordinary. It is from Spain, but viewed all over the world. From Istanbul to Paris, from Rio to Los Angeles, fans love this show. They cannot wait, they cannot get enough of this infamous band, and they are clamoring for their return."
It’s true. Money Heist has been one of Netflix's biggest international success stories and its most-watched non-English language series ever. It won an International Emmy and the third season was seen by more than 34 million households in the first seven days. Its lead actors are now internationally recognized.
So it was noteworthy when Amazon Originals recently unveiled details of its first real slate of originals out of Spain, including the casting of Netflix's Money Heist and Elite co-star Jaime Lorente as the lead in its new series El Cid, made with Zebra Producciones and billed as one of Amazon's most ambitious series in Europe, as well as a 1940s-set mystery series in production with Bambu Producciones, known globally for its high-end period dramas for Netflix (Cable Girls, High Seas).
Amazon is banking on Lorente's now-global appeal. It's also capitalizing on Bambu's proven track record with mystery dramas and Zebra's experience with historical productions, notes Concepcion Cascajosa, senior lecturer in media studies at Madrid's Carlos III University and a regular television columnist in El Pais newspaper.
"The platforms aren't ordering new things — they're ordering productions that Spanish companies have experience in, and with good production values considering how cheap they are,” she says, calling the Spanish production sector "a well-oiled machine."
Indeed, many of the companies and people working with Netflix in Spain also work with its competitors. In this relatively small territory, platforms are going head-to-head for projects and talent.
Spain is an attractive market for multiple reasons, says Peter Welter Soler, partner in production services outfit Fresco Film and line producer in Spain on HBO's Game of Thrones and Netflix's Warrior Nun, among others. He cites relatively low prices and salaries for local productions, tax incentives with a payback cap that favors TV series more than feature films, a wide variety of geographic locations in a concentrated space and the infrastructure that comes with "a long tradition of training very highly qualified, international-standard crews" as factors driving the streamers to Spain.
As the world awaits the new landscape of streaming to come in the year ahead — with the introduction of competitor platforms from Disney, HBO, Apple and NBCUniversal, and in light of the EU directive requiring streamers to carry at least 30 percent of content from the region — Spain can be seen as a case study for how they’re likely to compete.
"For generations, one country and one culture has been exported around the world," Sarandos said at the Money Heist premiere. "What La Casa de Papel proves is that great stories can come from anywhere in the world and make the whole world happy."
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