Four heavyweight Spanish television platforms - pay outlets Via Digital and Quiero TV and free-to-air broadcasters Antena 3 and Telecinco - are joining forces to create thematic channel The Fiction Factory (FDF) dedicated to Spanish and US fiction series.

FDF will launch on both Quiero and Via Digital beginning next month with product coming predominantly from Antena 3, Telecinco and independent producer GrupoArbol. Antena 3 and Telecinco will each own 40% of the channel with Grupo Arbol holding the remaining 20%.

The channel will have a first-year budget of around $5.6m (PTS1,000m) for production and acquisition. It will air up to 12 US series, some, such as Everybody Loves Raymond, exclusively, according to FDF head Jose Miguel Contreras. GrupoArbol chief Emilio Aragon said he is in talks with international partners to co-produce series. "Behind-the-scenes" looks at the making of Spanish series and internet link-ups to the channel are also in the works.

FDF marks a ground-breaking collaborative effort between rival broadcasters. "This is the only way to compete in the television market," Contreras said during his presentation of FDF in Madrid alongside Quiero general director Ildefonso de Miguel, Via CEO Juan Ruiz de Gauna, Antena 3 CEO Juan Jose Nieto, Tele5 CEO Paolo Vasile and GrupoArbol head and TV actor Emilio Aragon.

Telecinco's Vasile said FDF stems from the success of locally-produced fiction series which he said represents a "strong model" for the rest of Europe. Spanish broadcasters have steadily increased their production budgets over the last few years to meet the growing demand for homegrown product. Telecinco, for example, upped its production budget to an annual $89m (PTS16,000m) last year, with a significant percentage earmarked for fiction.

Spanish series, such as Aragon-starrer Family Doctor (Medico De Familia), have also successfully sold abroad. FDF's partners aim to sell the channel as a package, especially in Spanish-speaking territories, further opening the international market for Spanish series.

FDF will form part of the basic package offer of both digital terrestrial outlet Quiero TV, which launched in May, and Via Digital, the digital satellite platform in service since September 1997, which now has more than 500,000 subscribers.