December 27, 2010

Spanish TV model

At the end of this week CNN+, the tv station partnered by CNN and Spanish media giant Sogecable will be shutting down after 12 years on the Spanish tv grid. The rumor is that it will be replaced by a 24-hour Big Brother show. Bad news, but a reality of the kind of crap that the average Spaniard watches on tv. The big bucks are on gossip.... really sad.

This decision comes in the context of the Telecinco-Cuatro (owned by troubled Sogecable) merger, a large corporate transaction that will be bringing some changes to tv in Spain. Telecinco has now significant decision power at Sogecable and the CNN+ shutdown is one of the first decisions so far.

A little over a year ago the Spanish tv migrated from analogue to digital. Following the analogue blackout, the new TDT model promised lots of new channels and more options for viewers. The reality, after a year, is that we have lots of shitty channels with virtually no content. Plus the big audiences - the ones driving the $$ - keep focusing for the most part on the Spanish networks, which are exactly the same thing they used to be (simply broadcasting in digital now) . The result is that there is no room for niche quality channels such as CNN+, which will say goodby with less that a 1% share.

Spaniards are not used to paying for tv content. Not even for high-quality one. In fact, some years ago the government passed a law declaring some events (mostly sporty ones) "of general interest", making it mandatory for them to be on free-to-air. Likewise, less than 10% of Spanish population is subscribed to some kind of pay-tv package. This prevents relevant international players (ESPN is the most obvious one) to enter the Spanish market.

The current model with just a handful of domestic players is here to stay. I virtually watch no tv. I can find 90% of the content I find relevant online. I could get rid of my tv tomorrow and nothing would change. Maybe some kind of disruption - to come from the online world - is needed to shake things up a little.

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