As the world’s leading subscription-based streaming service, Netflix continues to look for new ways to embrace and expand evolving markets to grow its customer base. While subscriptions declined in North America during 2022, the company continued to experience growth in its Europe, Middle East, and Africa regions. With this area now the largest global market for the company, leaders like Diego Ávalos, vice president originals — Spain, Portugal, and Nordics, are looking for ways to generate content that will be embraced by both localized and global markets. With Ávalos at the helm for the past seven years, the company has continued to achieve success and growth with non-English content that resonates not only with Latin American viewers and Spanish speakers, but with a worldwide audience that appreciates the quality of production, acting, and writing coming from the region.
“I’ve been here since the Netflix launch in Spain; this industry is a bridge between Europe and Latin America — there’s a strong cultural connection and it’s a unique position from a storytelling and potential audience perspective,” Ávalos told online news site Deadline.
Leading the charge when it comes to noteworthy Spanish-language content is the groundbreaking series Money Heist. Originally a coproduction with the Spanish network Antena 3, the series was picked up by Diego Ávalos and Netflix, repackaged, and extended for an additional three seasons. The show turned into an international phenomenon, becoming the most watched content on the platform during the show’s final season premiere in 2021 and racking up over 189 million hours of watch time.
Álex Pina, the show’s creator and writer, subsequently signed an extension for his exclusive deal with Netflix, committing to bringing more Spanish-language original content to the platform. The agreement is one of Ávalos and Netflix’s first deals with a non-English creator. Upcoming content from Pina will include a spinoff series titled Berlin, a prequel to Money Heist featuring characters from the original series.
“Pina is an innovative and creative storyteller who has inspired fans and aspiring creators around the world,” said Diego Ávalos. “After the great adventure that has been Money Heist, we are very excited to remain a home for him … and all the stories that are to come.”
Pina’s creativity isn’t restricted to the Money Heist universe. He also produced a crime drama titled Sky Rojo, written across three seasons for Netflix. Pina is also the creative mind behind the British-Spanish mystery thriller series White Lines, demonstrating that Spanish-language productions can collaborate with other entities in the Netflix ecosystem to create cross-cultural content that resonates with a broader audience. Pina also has plans to produce a series based on the COVID-19 pandemic, where rich Spaniards resort to living in luxurious bunkers to avoid the catastrophe.
The streaming platform remains determined to make the most of localized content, believing that quality production and storytelling can click with audiences across cultures, languages, and locales. The brand also stands to make the most of content already proven successful with regional reboots. Money Heist, for example, has been approved by Netflix to begin production of a Korean version of the series.
Under the leadership of Diego Ávalos, Netflix more than doubled its production of Spanish-language original content in 2022. With an emphasis on diverse, innovative fiction, Ávalos has spearheaded content well beyond Money Heist, including Spanish-language The Innocent and a series set in Portugal titled Gloria. Demonstrating relatable stories through a specific cultural lens has helped Netflix’s programming rise to the forefront in streaming platforms where Spanish, Hispanic, and Latino groups have often been overlooked. While these markets remain fragmented, Ávalos endeavors to connect with audiences through programming that is relatable and recognizable in his native Spain.
“Our main goal is to satisfy the hunger our local audience has, but people also have the ability to discover these stories no matter where they are in the world, in any language,” said Ávalos. “A Spanish story being discovered and being relevant to millions of people around the world is truly satisfying.”
Ávalos is onto something. Spain has become a large production hub for the company, with a campus in Tres Cantos, near Madrid, which has more than doubled in size since it opened in 2019. The facility now includes in-house postproduction services and 10 dedicated soundstages. Recently added is the first remote editing system in Spain, empowering employees to work on products from the cloud throughout Europe. Ávalos also credits the growth of Spanish programming with the vast talent and availability of unique filming sites that Spain has to offer. “The talent in front of and, of course, behind the camera is one of the great competitive values of production in Spain,” said Diego Ávalos. “Spain is one of the most interesting sets in the world, not only because of its scenic beauty or its geographical richness, but also because of the diversity of its heritage and its cultural value.”
Spain offers Netflix a bevy of opportunities through its tax rebate system, which encourages Spanish-language and international productions with up to 30% incentives and maximum rebates in the millions. The country’s leadership has promised robust investment in the audiovisual sector, looking to increase content production in Spain by 30% by the end of 2025. Leaders like Diego Ávalos at Netflix are determined to continue contributing to these goals. From launching Netflix’s first international original series in 2015 to leading the consolidation of the brand’s Spanish-language strategy into its Madrid-based European production hub, Ávalos has demonstrated his dedication to a global strategy and the cultivation of Spain-based content designed for local audiences with international appeal.
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