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Why Spain is taking over Netflix's catalog

From 'Money Heist' to 'Élite', half of the most-viewed contents on Netflix are Spanish

Why Spain is taking over Netflix's catalog  From 'Money Heist' to 'Élite', half of the most-viewed contents on Netflix are Spanish

Just a few days ago, Netflix launched the fourth season of Money Heist. Referring to Netflix analytics, it's the most viewed non-English series on the platform and in 2019 was the most popular series in Italy. Though, it's not the only Spanish content that is popular on the streaming service: in these days, 5 out of the Top 10 of the most-viewed contents on Netflix are Spanish productions.

Following Money Heist and Money Heist: The Phenomenon, a behind the scenes documentary about the series, we find Élite – withstanding despite its third season came out at least a month ago – and Toy Boy, another drama about the revenge of a stripper who goes out of jail. Led by their success, recently we've seen another series raise from its ashes and come back to popularity: Vis à vis, a sort of hard-version of Orange Is the New Black (it looks like Spain loves jail and criminals). Before it was defeated by the release of Tiger King, in the past few weeks the talk of the day was another Spanish film: The Platform (El Hoyo). Despite the negative critics, the film made its debut at Toronto International Film Festival, then it premiered in Italy at Torino Film Festival, perhaps the most important Italian festival when it comes to independent cinema.

Spanish media industry is the second most followed in the world - after the leading of US - and its rise is unprecedented. Though, this success is not random: it's the result of a precise strategy led by the Spanish division of Netflix.

Among the many Spanish titles that are taking over Netflix, there are some less known but still going viral: Pieles, a film about a group of people born with physical deformities  (it's like Glee feat. American Horror Story: Freakshow) and Contratiempo. Talking about the series, we find Alta mar, a cheap version of Titanic with Jon Kortajarena; Las chicas del cable, about a 1920s group of women discovering and fighting for their rights (now at its fifth season).

To be honest, for many years Spanish media industry has been linked to a few names: Pedro Almodóvar, Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Antonio Banderas, but they all come from the world of cinema. Still, Almodóvar is not the only Spanish director in this world, nor the greatest one; he's just the most famous. Its television production has been even less fortunate: the only titles who recently gained a little success in Europe are El secreto de Ponte Viejo (a classic telenovela) and Paso Adelante. Somebody may claim that this is a sort of revenge for Spain, following many and many years in which its industry has been underestimated. Though, it would be naive to think that the merit of this success only goes to the genuine interest of the public. On the contrary, this enthusiasm is cleverly manipulated by the algorithms that regulate Netflix content production. 

Let's take a look at the most famous example: Money Heist. The series wasn't born on Netflix: the first season aired in 2017 on Antena 3 (the main private Spanish broadcaster) and its first episode, aired following an important Champions League match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, was watched by 4 million people. Nothing more than a regular Spanish series, destined to stay on the National market. It was Netflix that saw some potential and bought the worldwide distribution right. Once it got it, the 15 one-hour long episodes that composed the first season were re-edited to become 22 episodes enough to cover the arch of two entire seasons. The series was finally ready for the international market. The rest is history: following the huge success, Netflix ordered a second season to divide into two parts: the third part was streamed by 24 millions of people on the first week after it was launched, and the fourth part broke this record in the first 3 days. Thanks to simple, yet clever ideas (as the mask of Salvador Dalí, a homage to the one of Guy Fakes from V for Vendetta, or symbolic songs as Bella Ciao), Money Heist ultimately became a cult and one of Netflix top series.

Netflix knows how to play this game. It's not surprising that the actors who work on those series are always the same: Netflix' "Spanish celebrities travel from one series to another and take with them their public. That's what happened with Miguel Herrán, Jaime Lorente and María Pedraza (Rio, Denver and Alison Parker from Money Heist), who starred in Élite; Alba Flores and Najwa Nimri (Nairobi and Alicia Sierra from Money Heist), who were so loved by their fans that they convinced them to watch another Spanish series that seemed already forgotten, Vis à vis. Their success is unprecedented in Spanish television: Danna Paola from Élite has more than 20 million followers on Instagram (more than Chiara Ferragni), Úrsula Corberó (Tokyo from Money Heist) and Ester Expósito (Carla from Élite) more than 16 million, while Arón Piper (Ander from Élite) recently overcame 10 millions. On this path, it's been announced that Diana Gómez, Tatiana from Money Heist, will be the star of Valeria, a new series that will debut on Netflix later this spring.

Once again, Netflix won the exclusive to all the most hyped productions for the future. Still, as pointed out by nss magazine, after this period of quarantine the life of media products has completely changed: there are too many contents, Netflix is releasing them at the speed of light and the users are forced to consume them just because they feel like they have to. If we want to love them, we have to watch them right now: for much as we know, this hype for Spain could be over even before the release of the fourth season of Élite.