Telefónica flexed its muscles as a creator of original content this week by announcing major plans to make its home-grown programming available across much of the Spanish-speaking world.
Under the plan, Movistar+ original series will arrive to 12 more countries this year across Central and South America, which will take the company’s original content footprint to 13 markets including Spain. Discussing the plans, Movistar+ president Sergio Oslé stressed that the company wants to “create benchmark television where the client has the freedom to choose”.
Telefónica will launch a Movistar Series channel in Latin America to distribute its own series –plus a selection of third party productions – through its Movistar TV and Movistar Play platforms. By its own estimates this approach will see it reach more than three million pay TV homes across the region plus a massive 110 million mobile users.
Telefonica has invested €70 in Movistar+ original productions, of which €10 million went towards its first original La Peste – a period drama set in 16th century Seville during the plague epidemic. La Peste will be the first Movistar+ original series to premiere across the new markets, and will be followed by 11 other series throughout the year.
Domingo Corral, Movistar+’s director of fiction, said that the company aims to make “local stories with a universal attraction” and claimed that La Peste’s viewing figures surpassed big shows like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and The Big Bang Theory in Spain.
“We will become a platform of platforms in Latin America, offering the best content in the market,” said Michael Duncan, CEO of Telefónica’s global consumer unit. “We believe that there is enormous potential for a platform of quality content made in Spanish, and we want Movistar Series to become the benchmark channel for this content.”
The importance of originals was seen elsewhere in the news this week when British broadcaster UKTV hired Kerry Waddell from Baby Cow Production, as it moves ahead with plans to up its original programming output by a third this year.
Waddell was head of production at Baby Cow – where she worked on shows like Red Dwarf, Undercover and Zapped – and will take the same title at UKTV, which plans to air its first original six-part dramas on its Drama and Alibi channels.
Last month UKTV CEO Darren Childs said that investment in original programming is driving big gains in both on-demand and linear viewing, claiming that eight out of its top ten performing shows in 2017 were originals. Childs also singled out entertainment format Taskmaster – which plays on free TV channel Dave and is being remade by Comedy Central in the US – as the most-watched show on its on-demand service UKTV Play las year.
Elsewhere this week, Liberty Global announced its second move into original drama. The European pay TV giant has partnered with All3Media International and Amazon Prime Video to produce The Feed – a London-based series, set in the near-future, that is centred around the creator of an omnipresent technology called ‘the feed’.
The show will be available next year across Liberty Global’s international platforms, including Virgin Media in the UK, and will also stream on Amazon Prime Video as a Prime Original in the US, Canada and Latin America. Liberty previously greenlit an original drama called The Rook last summer in partnership with Starz and Lionsgate.
“We want large scale, ambitious shows about contemporary ideas that make a global impact and get people talking,” said Liberty Global’s chief programming officer Bruce Mann. The Feed is a Studio Lambert show, was written by Channing Powell (The Walking Dead) and its lead director is Carl Tibbetts (Black Mirror, Humans).
Sky said in its recent six-month results announcement that viewing of Sky channels had increased by 6% following both critical successes and record audiences for Sky Original productions like Riviera and Tin Star. It plans to grow its Sky Originals investment this year and to showcase more than 50 Sky Original productions across eight genres in 2018 – including four ‘key dramas’ per quarter across its territories.
Last month Sky also announced plans to commission and acquire exclusive rights to original films, in its latest push into original content. Sky plans to show its original films in cinemas at the same time as they become available for Sky Cinema customers and its first release will be Monster Family, an animated comedy that will launch in March.
While Netflix’s bets on original content have made headlines in recent years, the effects of its big budget ambitions have permeated throughout the wider industry. Broadcasters and operators alike see that value lies in original IP and are increasingly acting on that principle.
It is telling that Netflix’s value exceeded US$100 billion for the first time last month. This happened on the day that it revealed that its full year cash flow came to negative US$2.0 billion in 2017 and will grow to between negative US$3 billion and US$4 billion in 2018, largely due to its original content spend. With budgets increasing, the content arms race looks likely to grow ever more intense in the coming years.