With the leading VoD portals in Spain such as Imagenio and Orange TV striking deals with the US studios to show all their major projects, the smaller Spanish indie films are being squeezed out. But now local producers and distributors are fighting back with their own internet VoD portals.
One of the main instigators of this change is Egeda, Spain's producers' rights protection society, which has been digitising its members' productions, and now offers some 2,000 Spanish titles on its Filmotech.com website.
Egeda is a not-for-profit organisation, so for producers, Filmotech offers an attractive business model. The company takes out costs for digitising the films at Egeda Digital's lab and for running the website, including broadcast of trailers, then remits remaining returns to producers. These can reach up to 65% of the revenue.
The website charges $1.46 (EUR1) to watch a movie once, the second time costs $2.85 (EUR1.95), and to have it on a permanent basis costs $8.48 (EUR5.80). Among the most downloaded titles so far have been Vicente Aranda's Mad Love, Spanish-Argentinian comedy Almejas Y Mejillones, Julio Medem's Sex And Lucia and Luis Berlanga's classic Calabuch. The website also offers a small selection of US and international titles.
"So far the take-up has been fairly slow, although we have managed to get 12,000 users registered on our site which is a good beginning," says Rafael Sanchez, managing director of business operations at Filmotech. "But the difficulty is trying to change Spanish audience's viewing habits, as well as tackle the major problem of film piracy. We want to change the illegal market into a legal market."
Convincing local producers there is money to be made from VoD is also proving difficult, admits Sanchez. Enrique Costa, head of acquisitions at Avalon Productions, says: "VoD in Spain for smaller producers and distributors is nothing. We have rights but the technology, laws, (the domination of studio product) and film piracy don't allow us to step ahead with making money from VoD."
Costa suggests one way to rectify the situation is for the US studios to work alongside the independent producers and assist them with distributing their films through VoD.
Egeda has already gone one step in that direction by signing an agreement last month with telecoms giant Orange to launch its titles, alongside the major commercial products, on all Orange's VoD platforms in Spain, including broadband internet, its website and 3G mobile phones.
The pioneering multiplatform deal allows Orange to offer the films to Spanish consumers after their theatrical run but before their DVD release. The first title to be shown is Gonzalo Suarez's romantic comedy Oviedo Express.
Spanish rights collector Sgae also set up La Central Digital back in 2006, which offers more than 2,000 feature films from Spain and Latin America (and other parts of the world) to its clients, which include Imagenio, Orange and Deutsche Telekom's Ya.com. La Central guarantees product suppliers a minimum 30% of gross revenues from viewership of their titles.
Local internet provider Jazztel is also pushing Spanish content through its Iptv service Jazztelia, which offers VoD, including first run and catalogue films from Manga, Tripictures, Filmax and Versus Entertainment.