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Television EspañOla, S.A. Business Information, Profile, and History

Torrespana-O'Donnell, 77
28007 Madrid

History of Television Española, S.A.

State-owned Television Española, S.A. (TVE) is one of two subsidiaries of Radiotelevision Española, Spain's largest and most important audiovisual company. Financed by advertising, TVE has two channels, TVE 1 and La 2, and an international satellite channel broadcasting in Spanish throughout the world.

TVE began transmitting in 1956 as a monopoly from studios in Madrid. Its first channel, operating in black and white, was TVE 1. In 1962 the company created a second channel, UHF (now called La 2). The company went on to produce a variety of successful programs: in 1968 TVE's Historias de la frivolidad ("Tales of Frivolity") won the Golden Rose prize at the Montreaux Festival. And, first transmitting programs in color during the 1970s, the company produced La Cabina ("The Cabin"), which won an Emmy in 1973. Two of the most popular quiz shows the company produced were Un millon para el mejor ("A Million for the Best") and La union hace la fuerza ("Strength through Unity").

In 1982, the same year the World Soccer Cup was held in Spain, TVE constructed the Torrespana communication tower with capacity for worldwide transmission. The tower soon became a landmark on the Madrid cityscape; at 213 meters, it was among the ten tallest television towers in the world. The company built next to the tower a complex covering more than 50,000 square meters to house TVE's news services headquarters. The complex included a completely computerized central editorial office.

In the early 1980s the company continued to thrive. In 1983 La colmena ("The Beehive"), produced by TVE, won the Gold Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. In 1985, facing the need to expand, the company completed the Pozuelo de Alarcon center to serve production and administrative purposes. The television station proceeded to gain international recognition for its production of highly acclaimed films throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. In 1988 TVE's Las gallinas de Cervantes ("The Hens of Cervantes") won the Europe prize. In 1990 TVE won the Golden Shell at the San Sebastian Film Festival with Las Cartas de Alou ("Alou's Letters"), a film about the experiences of an African immigrant in Spain during the 1980s.

As TVE entered the 1990s, it had three main production centers: one in Madrid, where it produced the majority of its programs; one in Barcelona (at the Catalonian Production Center); and another in the Canary Islands. The centers in Barcelona and the Canary Islands produced shows mostly for regional audiences. The company also had 15 smaller regional production centers.

In 1991 TVE had an estimated budget of $1.3 million and total broadcasting time of 260 hours per week on its two channels. 60 percent of the programs broadcast were Spanish productions; the remainder were imports. Programs transmitted on TVE 1 and La 2 reached 99 percent of homes in the Spanish part of the Iberian Peninsula and the Canary and Balearic Islands, a total of more than 11 million homes. In addition, populations in large areas of Portugal, northern Morocco, Algeria, and the south of France were able to view the two channels.

The company saw the beginning of serious competitive challenge with the end of its monopoly role in the Spanish television industry in 1990. By 1991, six regional television stations were in operation--many of them broadcasting in regional languages--as well as three private channels. The private channels included Antena 3, which began transmitting in January of 1990; Telecinco, or Tele 5; and Canal Plus, Spain's only television station requiring paid subscription.

To remain ahead in the running, the company's strategy included keeping the attention of large audiences on its first channel, TVE 1. The channel concentrated on capturing a wide audience share during Spain's secondary "prime time" slot, from 2:30 to 5:00 p.m., with general news, quiz shows, and popular Latin American soap operas. The strategy was successful: in 1990 TVE 1 had higher numbers of daily viewers and more programming hours than any other Spanish television network. It ranked first on the viewer ranking table in 1991, with an average share of television audiences of 43 percent. News and news-related programs occupied 35 percent of viewing time; drama and movies, 28 percent; quiz shows, 7 percent; programs for children, 8 percent; and cultural programs, 5 percent.

The most popular programs transmitted by TVE 1 included two quiz shows, El precio justo ("The Price Is Right") and Un, dos, tres ("One, Two, Three"), the latter almost a fixture in Spanish households, with a history of more than 20 years of transmission. Second in popularity were domestic video shows, musicals, and hit movie classics.

La 2 ranked second in numbers of daily viewers in 1990. Its audience share in 1991 was 14.2 percent. This market share, combined with that of TVE 1, allowed TVE to maintain its leadership position in the Spanish television industry with an average audience share of almost 60 percent. The channel La 2 targeted a more educated, selective audience, with programming that included documentaries, educational productions, movies for sophisticated viewers, experimental projects, and programs of regional interest. The network also provided extensive coverage of special events, including concerts, theater productions, and international affairs, and it carved a big niche in sports. The channel consecrated 20 percent of its viewing time to sports in 1990.

During prime time--8:30 p.m. to midnight in Spain and the time slot in which TVE faced its most intense challenge from competitors--La 2 offered a drama series, films, debates, or international hits such as The Simpsons. One program, Tribunal Popular ("The People's Court"), dramatized topical issues of national interest in a trial format before a panel of local celebrities.

Overall, the most popular programs the two stations offered during 1991 were: the quiz show Un, dos, tres, in number-one position; Martes y Trece ("Tuesday and Thirteen"), a comedy special featuring the camp and daring duo, Martes and Trece; Videos de Primera, the home video show; and the series Las chicas de hoy en dia ("The Girls of Today"). During 1991 the two stations averaged an overall rate of 22 million viewers per day.

In the early 1990s TVE allotted not only the largest segment of viewing time to news and news-related programming (35 percent on TVE 1 in 1991 and 30 percent of overall programming on both channels in 1990), but also the largest segment of its employees (1,200 out of 6,000). The company provided minute-by-minute coverage of the Persian Gulf War. The journalism staff in 1991 had assignments around the world, and the company had 15 international news offices. The network broadcast headline stories in three daily newscasts of 30 minutes each. TVE also provided widely popular news documentaries, including Informe Semanal ("Weekly Report"), En portada ("Front Page"), and Metropoli.

In 1991 TVE also participated with Latin American and European TV networks in video and film production, technical coordination, and introduction and testing of the European High Definition TV standard. TVE's Outside Broadcasting Van, helping to produce high definition programs, was frequently used by international producers. One of TVE's most noteworthy co-productions was the mini-series Los jinetes del alba ("Dawn Riders"), which won the silver at the 1991 International Festival of Audiovisual Programs at Cannes. The company later created two satellite stations, TVE Internacional and TVE America, in order to build better communications among the world's Spanish-speaking individuals.

The station also provided selective support for the Spanish film industry. The film Amantes ("Lovers"), directed by Vicente Aranda and produced by TVE, won two international prizes and the Spanish Premio Ondas de Cinematografia in 1991. In January of the same year, however, TVE began to default on both its home and overseas rights purchases. This caused traditional providers of credit to tighten their lending policies for movie producers; 30 Spanish films faced production problems and delays in 1991 because of the funding crisis.

In 1992 TVE found success in sports, providing exclusive coverage of one of the country's spotlight events, the Olympic games in Barcelona. Opening on July 25, 1992, the games were called "the televised sports industry's biggest enterprise in the twentieth century" by Victor Ego Ducrot in Inter Press Service. Overall investments in the event totalled almost $10 billion. With the exclusive rights to air the games in Spain, TVE charged about $170,000 for a 20-second commercial spot. Payments for retransmission rights were more than $635 million.

TVE's challenges for the 1990s and beyond include staying on top of rapid technological advances, keeping up with the competition in the European free market, maintaining a leadership position in the newly open Spanish market, and maintaining a share of European and Latin American productions. Watching the budget--and the competition--will be a constant necessity, but with a continued commitment to providing the public with quality productions, the station should meet not only the challenges facing it as Spain's only state-run television network, but the broader economic and cultural challenges that confront the new Spain of the 1990s.

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Company HistoryBroadcasting

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