MADRID: Traditional Spanish telco Telefónica has announced a push into Latin America with its Movistar+ original content platform and the launch of the most expensive Spanish series ever made.

La Peste, a thriller set 16th century plague-ridden Spain, is the flagship production of the telecoms group’s €70m strategy to create original content in the Spanish language.

“Telefónica is stressing its capabilities as a creator of original fiction content and its broad multi-platform scope”, Sergio Oslé, head of film and TV at Telefónica, told an event in Madrid last week.

The scope of the project is vast: the series, one of 12 Spanish shows to be rolled out, could hit as many as 13 countries in 2018, reaching a combined 6.8 million pay-TV customers in Spain and Latin America. In future, the company hopes to widen the platform’s scope to the region’s more-than-110m Movistar mobile clients.

Though other telcos have expanded into original programming as a way to create value for their customers and reduce churn, Telefónica hopes that the language will be the differentiator.

“There are so many good English-language shows being produced today, but there are few really high-quality Spanish premium dramas,” Domingo Corral, the head of original content for Telefónica’s Movistar+ told the Financial Times. “We had to differentiate ourselves somehow, and this made sense to us.”

Elsewhere, telcos including Orange, Altice, and Vivendi have invested in creating original content. BT in the UK has invested in content through its bet on Premier League and Champions League football.

However, the strategy is by no means a simple route to success. Though there is an opportunity in moving away from being other companies’ plumbing and capitalising on the thirst for content, some companies have suffered a reduction in their valuations.

Orange, the French telco, differed from the rest of the pack by retreating from exclusive content. In December last year, the company’s CEO Stephane Richard told investors “the user does not want to be in jail with content. The user wants the best possible range of content at the best possible price”.

Analysts of Telefónica’s decision, however, have noted its advantage over other European telcos, as it covers almost every Spanish-speaking country. Similarly, with low-costs compared to some American companies pursuing the same strategy, the company has taken on little risk.

Sourced from Telefonica, Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff