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El País: What (good) Spanish television owes to the German

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Feb 11 2019

When last November the German blockbuster Babylon Berlin won the Ondas de Televisión Internacional Award it was received by Peter Lohner, an executive of the German distributor Beta Film. Lohner devoted most of his speech to the virtues of Spanish television series. The scene was revealing: the same series broadcasted years ago had now become a product of great appeal in the international market.

European fiction in general is emerging and it is difficult to understand this process without Germany. The popular political drama Borgen, for example, did not get a green light by Danish broadcaster DR until it ensured financing from Germany, as the producer Camilla Hammerich recalls in the book "The Experience of Borgen: creating a Danish-style television drama". The relationship between Spain and Germany are starting to get very similar. In the observatory. Audiovisual. precisely, Babylon Berlin. The retouching is now a gap in the upper echelon of the most international and prestigious fiction, the so-called high-end drama.

These two paths converge precisely in Beta Film, a content distribution company founded in 1959 that currently has a catalogue that exceeds 4,000 titles and customers in over 165 countries, according to company sources.

If you look for the name of Christian Gockel in the credits of Spanish series: he appears as associate producer of Velvet Collection, The Zone and The Pier (Movistar + the three) as well as Times of war and Fariña also (Antenna 3). Speaking to EL PAÍS, Gockel, who is the executive vice-president of Beta Film for the Iberian Peninsula, points out the beginning of the economic crisis as a turning point for Spanish fiction, since it forced producers to open up in the international market and make more daring things with a more limited budget than other countries.

Thanks to Beta Film's relationship with Antenna 3, they discovered the potential of the series made Bambú Producciones and bet on them before their buyers. This was the beginning of the successful story. "Beta Film was the first company that trusted in the quality of our product on the international market and the sales they did for Gran Hotel placed us around the globe" says Ramon Campos, cofounder of Bambu Producciones.

But in an increasingly competitive market, Beta Film had to go further. "Simply with distribution you can't play at the same level as Netflix" says Gockel. As an associate producer, the German executive is dedicated to evaluating projects and looking for additional financing to increase the budget, with the aim of reaching a certain production value to be competitive in the market.

So far, Beta Film has been a co-producer for three Movistar + series. They know that OTT content must have a character of their own that makes them attractive in the market. El Embarcadero for example, the recent premiere of Movistar +, adds an element of passion to the formula of crime that in Gockel's opinion, "brings it closer to women". Before its premiere in January, the series was already sold throughout Europe, including Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, where it will be part of the HBO catalogue.

Faced with the strict German planning, Gockel says that one of the great virtues of local fiction is its flexibility: "A difference in Spain is that during production things are changed because the series can improve. This is unthinkable in other countries. And it allows you to adjust the series to a character you may like. "

And there is something else: the attractiveness of the actors. The latest Spanish acquisition of Beta Film has been precisely a series where sex and attractiveness are not lacking: Arde Madrid. Soon to be seen on global screens.