Atresplayer Premium Ups the Ante on TV Fiction Production (EXCLUSIVE)

As other European TV giants such as the RTL Group, Spain’s Atresmedia, owner of the OTT service Atresplayer Premium, is finding the sweet spot between auteur and broad audience shows.

Launched two years ago, Atresplayer Premium boasts fast growth in terms of subscriptions – reaching 400,000 users in Spain alone –  and content production volume, readying some 20 new TV projects for this year.

Promoting original voices, the platform is winning international visibility. Iconic original series “Veneno,” created by Javier Calvo and Javier Ambrossi, “Los Javis,” successfully launched on HBO Max in the U.S. and Latin America, with a strong impact on the international media, which contributed to strengthening the Atresplayer brand.

Now, “Cardo,” from creators and writers Claudia Costafreda and Ana Rujas, executive produced by Los Javis after becoming one of the hottest indie series of last year for TV critics and audiences, is close to an important international distribution deal.

“We are looking for the best home for ‘Cardo.’ The series is on Atresplayer Premium, but we had offers from many platforms, and we are close to striking a major international distribution deal, which will allow the series to go much further than it is already gone,” explained José Antonio Antón, director of programming, content and digital at Atresmedia.

Atresmedia, a leading broadcaster in Spain, has rapidly gained ground on the online platforms competition.

“The good thing we have as a company is that we have both worlds: We are a broadcaster and as such we produce series for broadcast, and then we have the possibility of making series that are only exclusive for the premium platform,” Antón pointed out.

“The series that we broadcast on Atresmedia linear channels have their place on Atresplayer, but we combine both worlds. Regarding the platform, we have opted for risky new projects, such as ‘Cardo,’ but also bet on series by more established talent.”

Alongside Buendía Estudios, Atresplayer Premium is preparing period series “Las noches de Tefia,” an early TV drama foray by playwright Miguel del Arco, which mixes music and comedy, unspooling inside a Francoist labor camp.

It’s also working on “La Ruta,” produced with “Riot Police” Rodrigo Sorogoyen at Caballo Films, tracking the personal journeys of a group of young Spaniards set on the legendary nightclubs zone La Ruta del Bakalao.

Adapted from the first book by Instagram celebrity Noemí Casquet’s popular trilogy “Zorras, Balas y Libres,” “Zorras” is produced with Morena Films (“Campeones,” “Everybody Knows”), turning on three twenty-something women who create a secret group to fulfil their sexual fantasies.

Atresplayer Premium is also launching “UPA Next,” the ambitious reboot of the legendary Spanish musical drama series “Un paso adelante,” partnering with Globomedia, part of The Mediapro Studio.

“What Atresplayer Premium allows us is more edgy projects, which we want to do. Being only a broadcaster, it would be difficult, because on Antena 3 I have to reach the greatest number of possible TV viewers… And that, with a more complicated, more edgy series, can be difficult.”

At the same time, Atresplayer Premium is raising the ante on more mainstream fiction TV content.

One example is “Heridas,” a remake of successful Turkish TV skein “Anne” – in turn an adaptation of Japanese series “Mother” – which toplines Adriana Ugarte (“The Time in Between,” “Julieta”) and María León (“Sleeping Voice,” “Wishlist”), marking a clear Antena 3 primetime TV production.

Further mainstream titles take in series with high profile Spanish actors such as “Señor, dame paciencia,” the TV follow-up of same titled successful comedy feature produced by Atresmedia Cine, toplining Jordi Sánchez (“La que se avecina”).

“We continue to rely on big projects with big names, but at the same time we have the option of betting on new voices. And in both cases the key is always the story. And it’s working very well for us,” Antón said.

Atresplayer Premium has rapidly positioned itself in the market, with more than 400,000 subscribers. It’s just announced some 20 projects for this year, which marks a big hike –  two years ago it kicked-off making five-to-seven projects a year.

The aim is to maintain the growth to continue attracting subscribers, becoming the leading local platform in Spain, “a local hero,” in Antón words.

“We don’t think we have to compete with global platforms, despite the fact that we are well received internationally, but must be able to continue attracting local talent and reach audiencies with the flavor of stories in Spanish.”

“The challenge now is to grow steadily, with a significant increase in the production of original content,” he pointed out.

On the international scene, Atresplayer Premium benefits from the pay TV bridgehead opened years ago overseas by Atresmedia International channels bouquet, reaching more than 50 million homes, mainly in Latin American and the U.S. markets. The platform often forms part of the channel’s package distribution deals.

“Because of international market developments, it is increasingly important not only to distribute your channels but also to accompany them with production that the platform brings,” he said.

In terms of international co-production, Atresplayer Premium mainly focuses on Europe, and a preferential partner would be the RTL Group, a shareholder in Atresmedia.

“In the case of RTL, we have a family relationship. They relaunched as RTL Plus, an ambitious project with an investment of more than €600 million [$684 million], but the line is very similar to the one we follow,” he argued.

“The option of being able to propose projects which fit both our goals is there. In fact, in some cases, with the aim of doing more ambitious things. We are already working on that,” Antón recognized.

Launched two years ago as a joint-venture between Atresmedia and Telefónica’s paybox Movistar Plus, Buendía Estudios channels the production of many of the projects Atresplayer Premium launches. That alliance extends to luring talent, a key challenge for broadcasters, OTTs and other big production companies today.

“We are going to grow a lot, but there are not thousands of projects. We work from conception, filming, promotion… We give talent special care and attention,” he said.

“With ‘Cardo,’ it’s clear. A series of new, young talents. It screened at the San Sebastián Festival, premiered in different Madrid areas, then in cinemas, and when it launched on the platform, each episode was an event. That care for the product is valued by creators and talent.”

He added: “An important part for us was to see that much of our success is theirs and we want them to continue by our side, to continue making it great together. Many times for us our brand is just as important as them.”

In that sense, Atresplayer is preparing “Vestidas de azul,” a continuation of hit series “Veneno,” picked as one of Variety’s best international series in 2020, directed and produced by series creators Javier Calvo and Javier Ambrossi at Suma Content.

“Cardo” will also be back for a second season, again from creators and writers Claudia Costafreda and Ana Rujas, who also stars, produced by Suma Content and Buendía.

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