The presence of Movistar Plus+, Spain’s biggest pay-TV/SVOD operator, is hard to ignore at this year’s San Sebastian film festival, with two original TV series and one feature film helmed by the streamer scattered throughout the program. The Telefonica-owned platform also had a hand in every Spanish feature 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 drive into original production, the current boom in local Spanish productions, and how he competes with global streamers like Netflix and HBO.
DEADLINE: Domingo, how’s business?
DOMINGO CORRAL: We are in very good shape. We are presenting two shows here in San Sebastian: Fácil and Offworld, which is part of the Official Section. It’s the only show that’s part of the festival’s Official Selection. And then we opened the festival with Modelo 77.
DEADLINE: What are the biggest challenges facing your company and sector right now in Spain?
CORRAL: The biggest challenge right now is the production costs because they are increasing dramatically, and not because all the players are making more money or because the subscriptions are growing. But because a lot of production is happening, which is good. That’s much better than having the opposite scenario, but you also have to be careful. We will always produce here because we are a Spanish company, but others might decide to go elsewhere.
DEADLINE: Do you see yourself in competition with Netflix and the other global streamers?
CORRAL: Of course, we compete with them, but we follow our own path. I know what they’re doing, and I have a lot of respect for what they do. They are tough competitors. But I firmly believe that competition makes you better. I think it’s good for us to have players like Netflix, HBO, or Disney+ competing with us. I think that makes us better. In the beginning, I was worried because I was thinking, wow, with all these guys landing here in Spain with their big pockets are we going to be able to survive? Because we don’t have the scale. I thought that five years ago, and here we are.
DEADLINE: Netflix and Amazon are investing big in local Spanish productions. Is this actually financially beneficial to the Spanish industry or is the money just leaving the country?
CORRAL: It’s a good thing. There’s no question about it. Just take Netflix, for instance. I don’t know how many shows they’re making, but they’re investing here. Netflix has this global platform, and in that sense, of course, they have a tremendous advantage. They can make a show popular around the world. There’s no question that this is good. There’s a lot of content being made, and a lot of it is irrelevant or bad. But I’d rather have that than the scarcity of the past.
DEADLINE: There’s so much change happening in the streaming business right now. HBO merging with Discovery, for instance. What do you see happening in the future?
CORRAL: I’m optimistic. I think there’s gonna be some restructuring. I think the level of production is going to decrease. US platforms are now making huge bets on shows like Lord of The Rings, so maybe that could be a trend. And when it comes to HBO, I truly hope that the traditional HBO keeps making the excellent shows they have been making all these years.
HBO has been an inspiration for me. I owe a lot to them and it would be very sad to see them abandon their approach to TV. I hope that doesn’t happen because television is not about quantity. It’s about quality. To make television, you need to spend time in development. You need to write many versions of a script and then you need to put resources in. Time is critical to make television. And what I see now is this quantity approach, making loads of shows, and most of them are totally irrelevant. The good thing HBO taught us is how to make good television. So I hope that whatever happens, that doesn’t change.
If you ask me, it’s sad to see what’s happening. Being sold to AT&T and then to Discovery. Now they have to make loads of cuts with very valuable executives being laid off. It’s 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.
DEADLINE: What do you think has been your biggest success at Movistar Plus+ so far?
CORRAL: We are a telco company. When we started, we didn’t have any brand recognition in the content business. We didn’t have any credibility. We were not HBO or Sky or Canal Plus. So thanks to the amazing creators that we have managed to work with, we have built a brand that is associated with good quality television. What our clients tell me, which is very important, is that one of the reasons to stay with us is the original programming. What we do has been based not on making loads of shows, but making relevant, unique, distinctive shows. I think we have been successful, not all the time, but sometimes we’ve been successful. I’m very proud.