EXCLUSIVE: Last week, Deadline broke the news that Starzplay, the international streaming service from Starz, is partnering with Sony Pictures Television for what will be one of its most ambitious originals to date.
XRey, a high-end, multi-lingual drama series about the life and reign of Spain’s controversial former king Juan Carlos I, comes from Golden Globe and Emmy-winning producers Howard Gordon (Homeland, 24) and Alex Gansa (Homeland) via their overall deal with SPT. Also onboard to develop the project, which is based on a local podcast, is Spanish production company Weekend Studio.
After we revealed the project, Deadline caught up with Superna Kalle, who was named president of international networks at Starz in 2018 and has a remit overseeing the expansion of Starzplay, which is now in 60 countries.
DEADLINE: Can you give us an overview of Starzplay’s global originals strategy?
SUPERNA KALLE: Our strategy is to find creative and well established production partners in territories who can help us bring local language content to our global audience. We count on their market expertise to help ensure the authenticity of our content.
In addition to this recent partnership with Sony Pictures Television for XRey, we have partnered with major Spanish studios like Bambu (Nacho Vidal, An Industry XXXL) and Mediapro (Express), French studios like Studiocanal (All Those Things We Never Said) and Federation (A French Case), and in Latin America we co-produce with local production companies Fabula (Senorita 89i) and Spiral (Toda La Sangre).
We plan to premiere at least two Spanish produced titles a year and a handful of titles from other areas of the world including Mexico, Chile, France – we are also exploring opportunities in Brazil and Germany.
DEADLINE: What are the key territories you are focusing on? Which ones have the biggest audience growth potential?
KALLE: Thus far we have successfully secured co-production opportunities to create local language content in Spain, France, Mexico, Colombia, and Chile. Our U.S. and UK international programming teams continue exploring co-production opportunities globally and we currently have local teams set up in Spain and Latin America who are looking for partners who can locally produce content with global appeal. While we look forward to expanding our local content offerings around the globe, we think Latin America has the strongest growth potential.
DEADLINE: Does Spain appeal in particular because of how widely spoken the language is?
KALLE: Spanish is the world’s second-most spoken native language so creating Spanish-language content in Spain or Latin America is a huge opportunity for us to reach an audience looking for content in its native tongue.
DEADLINE: What appealed about Xrey as a project? Why was Sony the right partner?
KALLE: The story itself is an intriguing and provocative tale that caught the world’s attention when the real events were taking place. As evidenced by the success of the Story Lab podcast in Spain, there is a rabid audience who is eager to learn more about the life and abdication Spain’s Juan Carlos I, King Emeritus. On top of an already attractive story which would appeal to our audience that loves the royal content already on our service, we have incredible faith that Sony and creative power houses Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa can bring this story to life for a global audience – since they all have incredible track records of creating sensational dramas.
DEADLINE: Do you have numbers in terms of how many projects you are currently commissioning internationally and how much money is being spent?
KALLE: We have formally committed to and announced nine co-productions overall in Latin America, Spain and France and we have many in development. Our goal is to bring the best premium local language content to our viewers around the globe.