Movistar+ and Netflix in Spain: competitors and partners

Curator's Note

"Let’s confirm the rumours, and sign this contract, and help all our customers" (Hastings, CEO of Netflix).

It was in May 2018 when Netflix and Telefónica, Spain’s largest telecommunication provider, announced their alliance with a video released on social media. A long-awaited partnership that, on the one side, symbolized the consolidation of Netflix in the Spanish market and, on the other, the strategic move of Telefónica to broaden and strengthen the catalogue of their pay-TV service, Movistar+. This happened in a moment when Telefónica was working on Movistar+ Lite, its standalone over-the-top service. From then on, Netflix not only was offered to Movistar+'s subscribers at a discount rate, but it also gained a prominent place in Movistar+’s interface and in joint promotional events.

Consistent with Netflix social media strategy, the promotional bilingual video discussed here is full of references to two popular Netflix-Spain shows: Cable Girls (Las Chicas del Cable) and the internationally acclaimed Money Heist (La Casa de Papel). The video starts with Álvarez-Pallete (Telefónica Chairman), asking Lidia Aguilar (a main character in Cable Girls) to establish a connection with the CEO of Netflix. In California, Hasting picks up his cell phone wearing the popular Salvador Dalí mask and red jumpsuit (Money Heist). Interestingly, this transatlantic call alludes to the first Spain-US telephone call – when King Alfonso XIII phoned the 30th US president, Calvin Coolidge in 1928 – dramatized in the first season of Cable Girls.

The video also emphasizes both Netflix and Movistar original productions. They are introduced by Hastings when he asks Álvarez-Pallete to have a cameo in their “next series.” Telefónica Chairman seems to agree but only if Hastings does the same in a Movistar+ production. The video ends with Álvarez-Pallete drinking from a Late Motiv mug (a subtle reference to a Movistar+ late-night show) before announcing to Lidia Aguilar: “Good news, it looks like you are coming home.” At this point, it is worth noting that the series Cable Girls takes place during the early days of the company Telefónica, and that the first concept of the series was presented to Movistar+. Ironically, Movistar+’s rejection gave Netflix the opportunity to make Cable Girls its first original production from Spain. Things have come full circle.

This curator's note aims to expand on our In Focus essay, where we offer a closer look at the two most popular services in Spain, Netflix and Movistar+, and reflect upon how subscription video-on-demand services have transformed television’s production culture in the country.

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