Conecta Fiction: More Co-Production, Cost Contention and the ‘Severely Overstated’ Death of Peak TV

The eighth edition of Spain’s Conecta Fiction & Entertainment, one of Spain’s foremost TV development and production forums, played out in the historical city of Toledo over June 18-21.

Known for the massive Catedral, hunking Alcázar castle and higgeldy-piggeldy old quarter back street, history weighs heavily in Toledo. There was nothing arcane about Conecta Fiction, however, which captured the current contradictions of the international TV industry. 10 takeaways:

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A Busy and Buzzy 2024 Conecta Fiction 

2024’s Conecta Fiction was busy and buzzy. Reasons abound. “The death of Peak TV is severely overstated,” Omdia’s María Rua Aguete proclaimed in a Global Trends presentation at Conecta Fiction. At over $40 billion, original spend by the U.S. top four – Netflix, Amazon, Warner Bros. Discovery and Disney – is the second biggest year on record, only bested by 2022. There is a still a huge international demand for Spanish TV. In April 2024, more hours of original Spanish content were watched in the U.S. (22.5 million) and Brazil (18.1 million) than in Spain (13.5 million). The meet was energized by a full turn-out of top TV players from Brazil and Portugal, their slates fair bursting with new projects.

This Year’s Mantra: Cost Effective 

Yet the TV industry’s big challenges also impacted the meet. 

The television industry is still experiencing ongoing transformation, Omdia’s Rua Aguete argued. That cuts a myriad ways, but one major driver is a significant shift to both more cost-effective viewership and production. With regards to audiences, that’s seen in the rise of Instagram, now with 1.5 billion users, and the surge of Free Ad-Supported Streaming Television (FAST) channels, particularly in the U.S and Brazil, where they have surpassed traditional pay TV services.

Production: Think Co-Production, Soft Money

The cost crunch played out at Conecta Fiction, as players activate strategies to produce high quality shows without losing their shirts. One case in point, “Weiss & Morales,” a Conecta Fiction highlight. Germany’s ZDF, ZDF Studios and Nadcon Film co-produce with Spain’s RTVE and Portocabo. The crime drama, exploring family and success, is shooting in Gomera and Gran Canaria, the Canary Islands, which offers 45%-50% tax breaks. “Co-producing and tapping some of Europe’s best incentives in Europe allows broadcasters to secure rights for their domestic markets at a fraction of usual costs without damaging production levels,” Nadcon’s Peter Nadermann told Variety with a grin. To boot, the partners share IP. 

The Age of Realism

What kind of budgets will SkyShowtime handle? Kai Finke, SkyShowtime chief content officer, was asked this Conecta Fiction keynote.  “We want to be realistic about the budget, though we’re looking definitely at commissioning a whole number of projects in the market,” he replied. Any viewer hoping for homegrown epics from Max in Spain, which launched April 21, may be disappointed. Max will target adult audiences with brands – such as “Pekin Express,” “Naked Attraction” – or IPs, stories based on real-life events, given their media impact, and Spanish stars, said Alberto Carrullo, head of Max Iberia and Italy. 2025 will see many smaller projects, a Conecta Think Tank predicted. Many titles announced this year at Conecta Fiction bore out this forecast.

SkyShowtime Keynote
SkyShowtime Keynote

The Beauty of Smaller Series

There are other reasons why smaller series may be in favor. “We’re very open to producers who want to maintain IP, our only concern. Is to keep exclusivity for Spain,” Movistar Plus+’ Susana Herreras said at Conecta Fiction. Global streamers are acquiring just local rights – Max for example on Iberian eco-thriller “Lume” and Spain’s “Favoritix” – opening doors for producers to look to them to occupy a traditional pay 1  window, covering a sufficient chunk of budgets. On big budget series producers still need a streaming partner which covers 100% of a budget and takes 100% IP, when retaining IP is the order of the day.

Shunt Towards the Mainstream

Netflix stunned the world over 2107-18 launching big, big plays out of international which were high on not only production values but also artistic ambition. Think “Money Heist” with its unreliable narrator, or “Dark’s” play on Higgs boson models . Those days are gone. Originality comes these days from just how far series deviate, genre bend and blend away from classic formats, often in stories set in novel contexts. Results can be exciting, as in “Red City,” one of the forum’s big buzz titles. But Conecta Fiction caught the move both to standard genres – over 60% of titles profiled in Conecta Fiction’s Co-pro and High-End pitch titles could be described as either procedural or thrillers, or both. Many project, notwithstanding, explore large social concerns.   

Brazilian Producers Move Into IP, Co-Production

As Conecta Fiction welcomed Brazilian producers as a Focus Country, Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva unveiled plans at Rio’s Quanta Studios last week to invest R$1.6 billion ($295 million) in Brazilian films and series in 2025. The sector is already receiving $516 million in Paul Gustavo Law funding, in a measure greenlit before Lula came into power. A global steamer investment quota, now being bitterly debated in Congress, would pour further hundreds of millions of dollars into the sector. Brazil is truly making ambitious series – Netflix’s “Senna,” for instance – and movies – Carlos Saldanha’s “100 Days”– and bids fair to become the new film-TV locomotive of Latin America. Many shows will be brought onto the open international market. “Our main goal is to retain IP. Our future is being IP holders,” Boutique Filmes’ Tiago Mello told Variety. Many other producers share that sentiment.

A Move To “Lighter” Entertainment

Conecta Fiction was won by two music-sluiced titles about young women chasing their dreams whether competing at the pop folk Balkavision Song Contest, – flamboyant musical dramedy “The Adventures of a Turbo-Folk Princess,” winner of a €50,000 ($53,500) Council of Europe Series Co-Production Development Award – or becoming a Kpop star, as in “K-Dream.” Series have to be lighter,” says Nadermann, instancing his own “Weiss & Morales,” an episodic procedural set in the spectacularly lush Canary Island of Gomera as well as Gran Canaria, whose landscapes offer “escapism” for viewers, he argued. 

Weiss Morales
Weiss Morales

Portugal: Land of Opportunity

A shout-out for Portugal. A decade ago, it made domestic series and telenovelas. This year at Conecta Fiction, the good and great of Portugal’s new TV scene rolled into town with new shows, from broadcasters RTP, TVI and SIC to producers SPi, Caracol Studios, Coral Europa, Plural Ent., Fado Filmes, Glaz, Shine Iberia Portugal and Ukbar Filmes and auteurs Edgar Medina and Leonel Vieira. Portugal has an expansive internationally ambitious industry. It makes the lowest cost of one minute of TV in Western Europe, has talent and a supportive government, “an alternative to American/Brazilian markets [for companies] looking to produce great content in a more cost-effective way,” Glaz’s Carolina Alckmin told Variety.

Business News

Deals and Business News at Conecta Fiction:

*Israel’s Yes has boarded “Red City,” from “Lupin” Co-Creator François Uzan and Ofer Seker, behind HBO Max’s “Uri & Ella,” a neo-Western set in 1957 Israel about how its South was won.

*“The Last Kingdom’s” Dominic Barlow is teaming with writer-EP Brendan Foley on “The Angolan Clan,” one of the highlights of this year’s Conecta Fiction pitch sessions.

*Brazil’s Ventre Studio and Disney are set to go into production on Carlos Saldanha’s live action epic “100 Days,” shaping up as one of the biggest  Brazilian movie ever.

*Studiocanal has rolled out further sales on “The Vow,” a trailblazing premium daily series from Bambu Producciones (“Velvet,” “Cable Girls”) and RTVE, which has energized the Spanish pubcaster’s ratings.

*Also part of Conecta Fiction’s Brazil Focus, ’3%’ producer Boutique Filmes announces “Seven Women,” with Portugal’s SP1, as well as a new sci-fi show from 3% creator Pedro Aguilera.

*Portugal and Brazil-based Glaz Entretenimiento is teaming with Boat Rocker to develop Azores-set fantasy mystery series “Human Nature,” Glaz’s entry into English-language scripted, Glaz announced at Conecta Fiction.

*Greta Molas, creator of the original Argentine version of The Cleaning Lady,” has signed with Madrid-based Hispánica Audiovisual and Uma Films, in Córdoba, Argentina to develop “Escorts” set in a world of luxuried sex-workers, and organized crime.

*In more Conecta news from Ventre, it unveiled “Coligay,” a scripted series on an extraordinary example of courage and resistance, the flamboyantly gay soccer supporters collective of the title, which blossomed under Brazil’s military dictatorship. Catnip for international partners.

*Secuoya Studios launches a European Sales and Global Co-Production Division, tapping María García-Castrillón as its director.

*Germany’s Pixable Studios has boarded TV Series “Finisterra,” which Portuguese producer Take It Easy talked up at Conecta Fiction.

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