Spain has a population of 46.6 million people in 18.6 million households. There are 18.4 million television households, representing a national television penetration of 99.2 per cent.
The Spanish television landscape has evolved considerably over the last five years, a trend that looks set to continue due to the rapid developments in technology, changes in consumer habits and increased convergence in the telecommunications and audio-visual sector.
One of the biggest changes is viewership of free-to-air television which has slumped to its lowest-ever level because of the increase in subscribers to pay-TV services.
During the fourth quarter of 2018, 76.3 per cent of total television consumption was distributed via DTT (digital terrestrial television), 2.4 per cent for DTH (direct-to-home) satellite television and 21.3 per cent for cable television and IPTV platforms.
Five years earlier, DTT accounted for 83.0 per cent, with satellite television claiming 4.1 per cent and cable/IPTV 13.0 per cent.
The progressive decline in the consumption of DTT and satellite platforms compared to the increase experienced by cable television and IPTV services will continue over the next five years due to the ongoing growth in the Spanish pay-TV market.
Share of viewing by platform type, 2013-2018 (percentage)
Another change is the fall in average daily television viewing. During 2018, average television consumption was 217 minutes (3 hours and 37 minutes) per day - 27 minutes less than in 2013. The decrease is due to younger people increasingly turning to online streaming services and social media.
Average television viewing per day (minutes)
The CNMC (Comisión Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia) is the regulator for the communications services in Spain. It is a public entity with its own autonomous legal status and is independent from Spain's central government but is subject to parliamentary control. It ensures proper functioning of all markets including the audio-visual and electronic communications markets, in the interest of consumers and businesses.
The CNMC has designated key sporting events of “general interest” to society that must be made available to free-to-air television.
The following events are considered of general interest:
- Summer and Winter Olympic Games
- The official matches of the Spanish national soccer team
- The semi-finals and final of the Fifa World Cup and Uefa European Championship
- The final of the Uefa Champions League
- The final of the Copa del Rey
- One match per round of LaLiga
- Major motorcar races held in Spain
- Major motorcycling races held in Spain
- Vuelta a España
- UCI World Championships
- The official matches of the Spanish national basketball team
- Spanish participation in the ITF Davis Cup
- Spanish participation in the semi-finals and final of Roland Garros
- Spanish participation in the IAAF World Championships and European Athletics Championships
- Spanish participation in the FINA World Championships and LEN European Aquatics Championships
- Spanish participation in the IHF World Championship and EHF European Handball Championship
- National and international competitions held in Spain and have state or autonomous public subsidy
Sport, specifically soccer, is extremely important to the nation. With 2018 being the year of the soccer World Cup, which was broadcast on free television, it was unsurprising that the list of the top 50 most watched television events of 2018 in Spain was dominated by sport. Sporting fixtures accounted for 47 of the top 50 programmes on Spanish television. The Fifa World Cup dominated the most watched programmes with 25 entries inside the top 50, including the top six.
Top 10 television programmes by average audience, 2018
Source: Barlovento Comunicación
The free-to-air television market is dominated by three major broadcast groups: commercial broadcasters Mediaset España and Atresmedia, and national public broadcaster Televisión Española (TVE).
Television audience share by broadcasting group, 2018 (percentage)
Commercial broadcaster Mediaset España operates seven free-to-air channels - Telecinco, Cuatro, Factoría de Ficción, Boing, Divinity, Energy and BeMad - and streaming platform mitele.
Currently, the main shareholder of the company is Italian media giant Mediaset S.p.A. with a 51.63 per cent holding.
Mediaset is the largest television network in Spain in terms of viewers and advertising share. In 2018, Mediaset had a 28.8 per cent audience share, an increase of +0.1 points in relation to 2017. Flagship channel Telecinco was the most watched television channel in Spain during 2018, with an audience share of 14.1 per cent. Mediaset’s second channel, Cuatro, was the fifth most watched channel with an audience share of 6.0 per cent.
Mediaset has established itself as the home of major national soccer team events, having showed the last three Fifa World Cups (2010, 2014 and 2018) and Fifa Confederations Cups (2009, 2013 and 2017), as well as the last two Uefa European Championships (2012 and 2016).
Having held the domestic rights to broadcast the 2018 Fifa World Cup, Mediaset exclusively aired 64 matches from the tournament on its free-to-air channels Telecinco and Cuatro.
This contributed to Mediaset recording 29 of the top 50 programmes in 2018, with the top six audiences, all broadcast by Telecinco, covering the Fifa World Cup.
The penalty shootout in Spain’s loss to host Russia in the knockout stage of the 2018 Fifa World Cup attracted the best audience of the year, with Telecinco pulling in an average of 14.8 million viewers for an 81.1-per-cent viewing share.
Mediaset’s coverage of major soccer events will continue for the foreseeable future having acquired the rights to the Uefa European Championship 2020. The deal also includes qualifying matches for Uefa European Championship 2020, the 2022 Fifa World Cup and matches from the Uefa Nations League in 2018-19 and 2020-21 that do not feature the Spanish national team.
Mediaset has also acquired rights to broadcast international and continental basketball from 2017 to 2021. The deal covers the FIBA EuroBasket 2017, the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019, the FIBA EuroBasket 2021 as well as the qualifying matches for these tournaments.
Commercial broadcast group Atresmedia, part of the European broadcaster RTL Group, operates six national free-to-air channels - Antena 3, La Sexta, Neon, Nova, Mega and Atreseries - and streaming platform atresplayer.
The combined channels of the group made Atresmedia the second most watched broadcaster in 2018, with a 26.8 per cent audience share, an increase of +0.3 points on 2017. Flagship channel Antena 3 was the second most popular channel domestically, with an audience share of 12.3 per cent in 2018, while Atresmedia’s second channel La Sexta was the fourth most popular channel with an audience share of 6.9 per cent.
Atresmedia recently held free-to-air rights to the Uefa Champions League, including the Uefa Super Cup, for three seasons from 2015-16, showing the Tuesday night first-pick match.
Real Madrid’s victory over Liverpool in the final of the Uefa Champions League 2017/18, delivered Antena 3 its biggest television audience for 2018. The 3-1 win attracted a match average of 9.3 million viewers and an audience share of 55.3 per cent for Antenna 3, making it the seventh most viewed broadcast in Spain for the year.
Television audience share by channel, 2018
Spanish public broadcaster TVE (Televisión Española) operates five national television channels (La 1, La 2, Clan, 24H and Teledeporte), two international channels (TVE Internacional and Star TVE) and audio-visual portal RTVE.es.
TVE was the third leading broadcaster in 2018, with all of its channels combining for a 16.5 per cent audience share, down -0.2 points on 2017. Flagship channel La 1 was the third most popular channel domestically in the 2018, with an audience share of 10.4 per cent. Teledeporte, TVE’s channel entirely devoted to sports, had an audience share of 0.6 per cent for the year.
The Copa del Rey final provided TVE with its largest sports audience of 2018. Barcelona’s 5-0 victory over Sevilla drew an average audience of 7.0 million viewers and an audience share of 40.8 per cent for La 1. For the second year running, TVE secured the rights to the 2019 Copa del Rey final, reported to be worth around €3 million.
The public-service broadcaster acquired the rights to the men’s national soccer team's qualifying matches for major tournaments over four years starting in 2018. The agreement, which includes more than 40 matches between 2018 and 2022, covers Spain’s qualifiers for Uefa European Championship 2020 and the 2022 Fifa World Cup, plus Spain’s matches in the Uefa Nations League in 2018-19 and 2020-21.
TVE holds the rights for two of cycling’s three Grand Tours. The broadcaster renewed its contract to broadcast the Vuelta a Espana in a four year deal from 2017 to 2020 reportedly worth €2 million a year. TVE also holds the rights to Tour de France from 2016 to 2019 and has secured the rights for another four-years, from 2020 to 2023.
Handball is another key sport for TVE, having acquired the rights to the 2019 IHF World Men's Handball Championship and the men’s Velux EHF Champions League for the 2018-19 season.
TVE has also secured the rights to motorcycling’s FIM Superbike World Championship in a two-year deal covering the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
In 2018, FORTA (Federación de Organismos de Radio y Televisión Autonómicos), which is made up of public broadcasting networks from different autonomous communities, was responsible for 7.7 per cent of the audience share.
Televisió de Catalunya (TVC), the public broadcasting network of Catalonia, was the most popular broadcaster from the autonomous communities, while flagship channel, TV3, was the most popular regional television channel. TVC is the only regional broadcaster to have a channel, Esport3, dedicated to sports programming.
Once a pay-TV channel, sports channel GOL, owned by Spain-based sports rights agency and production company Mediapro, relaunched in June 2016 as a free-to-air digital terrestrial television channel.
Sports rights held by GOL include various rights to LaLiga, Segunda División (LaLiga2) and the Copa del Rey cup competition for the 2016-17 to 2018-19 period. Mediapro has retained free-to-air live rights to matches from the country’s top two soccer leagues in a new three-year deal covering seasons 2019-20 to 2021-22. These are expected to go out on GOL.
Mediapro has also acquired rights to multiple Fifa tournaments in a four-year deal. The package of rights includes the 2022 Fifa World Cup, 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup and all editions of the men's and women's Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups, Futsal World Cup and Beach Soccer World Cup between 2019 and 2022. As part of the deal, Mediapro will set-up a dedicated 24-hour channel to cover the 2022 Fifa World Cup, with some matches likely to be shown on its free-to-air channel GOL.
Other sports rights shown on GOL include one match per week from Serie A for the 2018-19 season, handball’s Liga ASOBAL, the premier professional handball league in Spain, for the 2018-19 season and the men's and women's FIH Pro League 2019.
In 2018, GOL had an audience share of 1.0 per cent.
Spanish soccer's LaLiga launched LaLigaSports, an in-house over-the-top streaming service, in 2016 to provide free coverage of domestic sports that do not necessarily enjoy wide exposure on television through a mixture of live action, highlights, features and news. There are 20 sport-specific channels, covering the likes of canoeing, handball, basketball, eSports, field hockey, triathlon, water polo and soccer.
Key sports rights
¹ European Qualifiers for the Uefa European Championship 2020 and 2022 Fifa World Cup