In 2018, Netflix bet big on Spain when it began construction of its first European film and TV studio outside Madrid. What followed was a boom in the popularity of Spanish-language content worldwide, bolstered by successful series like Money Heist (Casa de Papel).
Behind the inspiring Spanish content creators and producers is Diego Ávalos, the vice president originals for Spain, Portugal, and Nordics.. Ávalos’ talent for seeking local storytellers and producers has turned Spain into a wellspring of globally successful content, and he is working hard to do the same in Portugal and the Nordics.
Netflix and Diego Ávalos have no plans to slow down, releasing 30 new shows, films, and nonfiction series in 2023, on top of additional seasons of titles that have already debuted. Ávalos recently spoke on the growing popularity of local Spanish content and the future of Netflix in his corner of Europe.
“Our main goal is to satisfy the hunger our local audience has,” Ávalos told Deadline, “but people also have the ability to discover these stories no matter where they are in the world, in any language.”
Diego Ávalos: Netflix’s Spanish-Language Content Guru
Ávalos has been integral to Netflix’s global expansion during his nine-year tenure at the media giant. Before joining Netflix, he led the business development and content strategies at Yahoo for the U.S. Hispanic and Latin American markets. He oversaw the development of Netflix’s European infrastructure, and under his watch, viewing of non-English-language titles by American Netflix members was at a whopping 97% in 2020 alone. Ávalos’s secret sauce? He says, “You have to put your own personal taste aside. You need to think of the audience and all of the diversity and preferences therein. I think that’s a big challenge normally for people.”
One might have expected that upon opening Netflix’s first European studio, VP Diego Ávalos would develop a broad, Eurocentric strategy. Instead, he focused on local audiences and created Spanish, Portuguese, and Nordic content that can resonate on a global scale.
According to Ávalos, this aggressive strategy made the most sense. “[Spain] has a really strong appetite for local content,” he said. “Television has had an incredible quality here in Spain for many years. That made it a lot easier to step into this market. But you can’t deny the ability of Spanish content to find global audiences. That allowed us to bet bigger on Spain than we might have otherwise.”
That bet certainly paid off. Global audiences soon started bingeing content developed for the Spanish-language market. Money Heist (Casa de Papel) is one of Netflix’s most popular shows of all time, and five of the top 10 most-watched non-English language shows on Netflix are in Spanish — Narcos came in at No. 1, Money Heist (Casa de Papel) is No. 2.
Diego Ávalos has produced additional hits with Netflix, like Élite and El Inocente, both of which score over 90% on the TV and film review site Rotten Tomatoes.
Diego Ávalos: Spanish Industry “As Strong as Hollywood”
Diego Ávalos is keen to transform Spain’s entertainment industry into a global success story, and he’s well on his way. In the U.S., the demand for Spanish language content has outpaced the demand for all other non-English language content. At the top of the list of in-demand Spanish language shows are Money Heist (Casa de Papel) and Élite — both produced by Diego Ávalos.
Ávalos is also thrilled to bring more money and recognition to local industry workers. “In the last year, we’ve had 40,000 days of extras on our shows, and more than 1,500 people have worked on our productions,” he said.
Ávalos aims to make a positive impact on the global entertainment industry and the local economy. If his past is any indication, both are headed for big things.
“We may have a smaller market locally [in Spain], but this industry is as strong as Hollywood,” he said. “The talent behind and in front of the camera is at the world-class level.”