Portugal film and TV reaching out.
Like the Portuguese seamen of the past, this centralized industry may find more fame and fortune on the distant horizon. Co-productions are on the increase and European companies are funding Portuguese film directors in new ventures. Until 1990, there were only two television stations, and both were government controlled. Today there are four TV networks: RTP (Canal 1), RTP 2, SIC and TVI. Last year private station SIC co-produced Portugal's box office blockbuster hit Adam and Eve.
On the theatrical front, movie attendance rose from 11 million in 1990 to 12.5 million in 1994; Portugal ranked second behind Italy, which has the largest number of cinemas in western Europe. The major film distributors like Lusomundo and Filmes Castello Lopes are now investing in adding multiplex screens in Portugal's 245 theaters. "The market here makes distinction it is not growing, it is developing," said Jose Manuel Castello Lopes, director of one of thc oldest film companies in Portugal.
The Spanish cavalry, however, is not [TABULAR DATA OMITTED] [TABULAR DATA OMITTED] far behind. Portugal has always struggled to distance itself from its powerful neighbor, but there are signs that this may be changing. The MIDIA market in June marked the first time that Portuguese TV and film participants did not object to being part of a united Ibero-American TV market.
The expansion of TV, satellite, cable and video in Portugal has increased competition and transformed cinema with an infusion of new financing, but this same expansion is reported to be taking away movie audiences. Video rental has increased to 1.4 million units a year. Satellite dish penetration has greatly increased due to new satellite channels. There are an average 1.98 VCRs per Portuguese TV household.
When government-controlled Canal 1 aired soccer, it led over TVI, SIC and RTP 2 for audiences, according to a 1994 survey but sports tend to obliterate all other ratings in this soccer-obsessed country. There have even been "futbol" wars for international TV rights. RTPN, an independent Portuguese U.S. cable channel based in Newark, New Jersey, has been struggling to obtain U.S. soccer rights to Portuguese games for some time now, according to Director Maria Jua, who added that most of the channel's Portuguese programming comes from SIC.
In Portugal, TV channels tend to be identified according to their programming. Canal 1 focuses on children and adults, TV2 on sports, SIC on locally produced movies and soaps and TVI on children. TVI (Televisao Independent) was established in February 1993 by the Catholic church and is planning to go public. SIC, established in October 1992, has an audience and ad shares that top those of the other stations. "We were the first to put on new Portuguese-made programs instead of relying on English shows," said Patricia Arantes, SIC's Public Relations director. "We hired many people to produce our own shows and our soap operas are very popular, in addition to the serials bought from Brazil's TV Globo." SIC's President Francisco Pinto Balsmao considered the high ratings share "a moment of history in Portuguese television"; he felt that SIC changed the habits of Portuguese TV viewers, who were used to watching the 30-year-old government-controlled channels.
RTP, the state-owned broadcaster that runs Canal 1, has been experiencing financial troubles as a result of competion from the new private channels. RTP lost $400 million over the last three years. In response to these problems, the Portuguese government has pledged to increase RTP's $97 million budget by $67 million.
In a country where, according to a 1993 survey, $333 million was spent on TV ad revenues, SIC led with 25 percent of ad revenues in 1996, compared with RTC's (Canal+ and TV2) 19.5 percent and TVI's 6.5 percent.
Compared with other European countries, Portugal has one of the highest average daily viewing times (258 minutes in 1993). There is also a great deal of imported programming (a reported 6,403 hours were bought in 1993).
Investment in Portuguese television might invigorate the previously slow market. The Holland-based Endemol Production Company opened offices in Portugal, establishing Televisuas Portugal in Lisbon. Endemol and its co-owned Barcelona production house Gestmusic are now providing Portugal with 3,000 hours of programming.
SIC's lead in Portuguese homegrown product is also encouraging other companies to develop their own Portuguese-language audiences. Box office encouragement for Portuguese-language films may also help in the battle against the overpowering popularity of American films and TV.
Perhaps the legendary Portugal that once spread its empire far and wide can regain part of its power by developing its television and film industries.
PORTUGAL AT A GLANCE
Broadcast System: PAL
TV Stations: Canal 1, RTP 2, SIC, TVI
Cable Broadcasters: MTV, ARTE, Eurosport, TV 5 Europe, NBC Superchannel, Euronews, TNT/The Cartoon Network, TVE, BBC Prime
Satellite Station: RTP International
Cable Penetration: 0.2%
Satellite Penetration: 2.5%
Number of TV Homes: 3 million
Number of Movie Theaters: 245
Yearly Movie Audience (1994): 12.5 million
Number of Feature Films produced (1995): 10