The Spanish film industry is up in arms over what is seen as a halt in acquisitions at pay TV platforms Via Digital and Canal Plus/Canal Satelite Digital, two of the most important financing sources for Spanish producers and distributors.
While the rumours about a stall have been circulating since early this year, the situation seems to have escalated this month and is suddenly making the national headline news.
The platforms "are delaying the signing of newer films as much as they can and asking to renegotiate output deals," asserts Alquimia Cinema chief Francisco Ramos. "We don't know what will come of all of this, but it is disconcerting. They are expected to buy half the amount of movies they were buying [this year as opposed to last]."
BocaBoca head Cesar Benitez says that he has temporarily stopped all feature film production until the situation improves: "It is impossible to make a film without the support of one of the platforms." Spanish Film Institute (ICAA) president Jose Maria Otero says about a third fewer films began shooting between January and April 2002 than during the same period last year.
Local distributors, who also rely on pay-TV sales on acquired titles, are equally concerned. "I think the sector is being greatly affected," says Manga Films president Luis del Vals. "We are all having problems with Via Digital and Canal Plus not buying rights."
Industry insiders attribute the hiatus to a re-evaluation of acquisitions strategies at the platforms due to serious financial losses, aggravated by a publicity drain, as well as a bottleneck of new product already acquired and a saturation of films on the Spanish market, both from abroad and from inflated local production levels.