The presence of Movistar Plus+, Spain’s largest pay-TV/SVOD operator, is hard to miss at this year’s San Sebastián Film Festival, with two original TV series and one feature film directed by the streamer covering the entire programme are scattered. Telefonica’s own platform was also involved in every Spanish entry in the festival’s official selection. Domingo Corral, Director of Original Fiction at Movistar Plus+, caught up with Deadline at San Sebastian to discuss the company’s push into original production, the current boom in local Spanish productions and its competition from global streamers like Netflix and HBO.
MEETING: Domingo, How’s business?
DOMINGO CORRAL: We are in very good shape. We are presenting two shows here in San Sebastian: facility and Outside the world, which is part of the official section. It is the only show that is part of the festival’s official selection. And then we opened the festival with them Model 77.
MEETING: What are currently the biggest challenges for your company and your industry in Spain?
CORRAL: The biggest challenge right now is the cost of production because it’s going up dramatically, not because all players are making more money or because subscriptions are growing. But because a lot is produced, that’s good. This is much better than the opposite scenario, but you also have to be careful. We will always produce here because we are a Spanish company, but others might choose to go elsewhere.
MEETING: Do you see yourself competing with Netflix and the other global streamers?
CORRAL: Of course we compete with them, but we go our own way. I know what they are doing and I have a lot of respect for what they are doing. They are tough competitors. But I firmly believe that competition makes you better. I think it’s good for us that players like Netflix, HBO or Disney+ compete with us. I think that makes us better. At first I was worried because I was like, wow, with all these guys ending up here in Spain with their big bags, will we be able to survive? Because we don’t have the scale. That’s what I thought five years ago, and here we are.
MEETING: Netflix and Amazon invest heavily in local Spanish productions. Is this actually financially beneficial for Spanish industry or is the money just flowing out of the country?
CORRAL: It’s a good thing. No question. Take Netflix for example. I don’t know how many shows they do, but they’re investing here. Netflix has this global platform, and in that sense, of course, they have a huge advantage. You can popularize a show around the world. There is no question that this is a good thing. A lot of content is created, and a lot of it is irrelevant or bad. But I’d rather have that than the scarcity of the past.
MEETING: So much is happening in the streaming business right now. For example, HBO merges with Discovery. What do you see in the future?
CORRAL: i am optimistic I think there will be a restructuring. I think the production level will go down. US platforms are now making big bets on shows like Lord of the rings, maybe that could be a trend. And when it comes to HBO, I really hope that traditional HBO continues to make the excellent shows that they’ve made all these years.
HBO was an inspiration to me. I owe them a lot and it would be very sad if they gave up their approach to television. I hope that doesn’t happen because television isn’t about quantity. It’s about quality. To make television, you have to invest time in development. You have to write many versions of a script and then invest resources. Time is of the essence in making television. And what I’m seeing now is this quantitative approach that’s doing a lot of shows, and most of them are completely irrelevant. The good thing HBO has taught us is how to make good TV. So I hope that whatever happens doesn’t change.
If you ask me, it’s sad to see what’s happening. Sold to AT&T and then to Discovery. Now they have to make a lot of cuts as very valuable executives are being laid off. It is sad. Warner, HBO, and Turner are great, amazing brands. I’m an optimistic guy and I think they will find a way to survive this corporate turmoil.
MEETING: What do you think has been your biggest success with Movistar Plus+ so far?
CORRAL: We are a telecommunications company. When we started, we had no brand awareness in the content business. We had no credibility. We weren’t HBO or Sky or Canal Plus. Thanks to the amazing developers we’ve had the opportunity to work with, we’ve built a brand associated with quality television. What our customers tell me, which is very important, is that one of the reasons they stay with us is the original programming. What we do was not based on making tons of shows, but making relevant, unique and distinctive shows. I think we’ve been successful, not always, but sometimes we’ve been successful. I’m very proud.