In 2018, Netflix embarked on a bold mission to make Spain a hub for exceptional content production. The result? A wave of Spanish-language series that captivated global audiences, led by the mastermind behind Netflix’s Spanish expansion, Diego Ávalos.
As the content vice president for Spain, Portugal, and the Nordics, Ávalos has steered Netflix’s journey into the world of Spanish content, reshaping how we perceive non-English-language series. With over nine years at Netflix, his impact on the global streaming giant is undeniable.
The Path to Netflix
Before his Netflix days, Diego Ávalos spearheaded business development and content strategies at Yahoo for the U.S. Hispanic and Latin American markets and helped transition the company from text, photos, and data into video and original content.
Ávalos’ move to Netflix was a leap of faith that materialized as he neared the completion of his postgraduate studies. “Netflix called me as I had finished my executive MBA a couple of months before,” he recalls. “It was a really odd call. It was basically, ‘You have the experience we want, but you don’t have the experience we need, but you seem interesting.’ Anyway, it was a really odd first contact with them, but I ended up getting an offer to move across to LA. I jumped on it in a second.”
While at Netflix, he played an important role in establishing the company’s European infrastructure. During his tenure, the viewership of non-English-language content by American Netflix subscribers skyrocketed to an impressive 97% in 2020 alone. Ávalos’ winning formula? “You have to put your own personal taste aside,” he emphasizes. “You need to think of the audience and all the diversity and preferences therein. I think that’s a big challenge normally for people.”
Netflix Makes History With the First European Film Studio
In 2018, Netflix’s decision to establish its first European film and TV studio just outside Madrid was a game changer. It set the stage for a surge in Spanish-language content’s popularity, led by the mega-hit series La Casa de Papel (Money Heist). But Diego Ávalos’ vision reached far beyond just Spain. He had his sights on Portugal and the Nordics, determined to make them centers of incredible storytelling. Rabo de Peixe, the hit Portuguese original series, is a testament to Ávalos’ vision of cultivating stories beyond language.
The European studio’s construction also marked the beginning of a remarkable journey, as Ávalos and his team went to great lengths to create content that resonated with local audiences. With the focus on pleasing local audiences, stories resonated globally, speaking the universal language of gripping storytelling.
The strategy proved sound, with Ávalos telling Deadline that Spain “has a really strong appetite for local content. Television has had an incredible quality here in Spain for many years. That made it a lot easier to step into this market and become part of that ecosystem. But you can’t deny the ability for Spanish content to find global audiences, to be more ambitious with projects and to have bigger scope. That allowed us to bet bigger on Spain than we might have otherwise.”
Indeed, the bet paid off. Spanish-language content swiftly captured the hearts of global viewers. Money Heist became one of Netflix’s most popular shows of all time. In fact, five of the top 10 most-watched non-English-language shows on Netflix are in Spanish, with Narcos leading the pack and Money Heist taking the second spot.
But Ávalos’ impact goes far beyond just one show. His creative vision is all over Netflix’s successes, from the enthralling Élite to the mind-bending El Inocente, each boasting Rotten Tomatoes scores of over 90%. His ability to connect with local and global audiences, creating content that transcends language and borders, has propelled Netflix’s Spanish-language catalog to new heights.
Diego Ávalos and the Future of Netflix Spain
What sets Diego Ávalos apart is not only his creative vision, but also his determination to make Spain’s entertainment industry a global sensation. In the United States, the demand for Spanish language content surpasses all other non-English-language content. Topping the charts are Money Heist and Élite, both masterpieces produced under Ávalos’ watchful eye.
Beyond creating captivating content, Ávalos is focused on making a positive impact on the local industry and economy. In the past year, since Netflix’s arrival to Spain, it has generated more than 10,000 jobs for both cast and crew in productions across the country. His dedication to the local industry workers is a testament to his commitment to fostering talent and economic growth.
Fast-forward to 2023, and Netflix and Diego Ávalos have no plans to slow down, releasing 30 new shows and films on top of additional seasons of titles that have already debuted.
As he looks to the future, his sights are set on even greater achievements. “We may have a smaller market locally, but this industry is as strong as Hollywood,” Ávalos said with unshakable confidence. With his remarkable track record and unwavering determination, both the global entertainment industry and the local economy are undoubtedly in for a thrilling journey ahead.