About to debut its fifth season on Netflix, La Casa de Papel has become a phenomenon and the platform’s biggest non-English-language series since it entered the catalog four years ago. This was only possible because the streaming service saved the attraction from failure on Spanish TV and turned it into a worldwide success.
Some fans don’t know, but La Casa de Papel did not emerge as an original Netflix production. The series created by Álex Pina was originally shown on the Spanish network TV Antena 3 in 2017 and caught the attention of the local audience, with its first episodes gaining good ratings.
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The interest of the Spaniards, however, dropped considerably over the episodes. With the end of the first season, the producers of La Casa de Papel were already counting on the imminent cancellation of the attraction.
“Success? No, La Casa de Papel was a failure. Contrary to what it seems, the life of the series is a story of failure. Antena 3 cut the number of episodes planned”, said Javier Gómez Santander, screenwriter of the series, in an interview with the North American broadcaster CNBC.
Pina and Santander even trusted in the potential of their work, but the short life of La Casa de Papel in the Spanish network had already been decreed. The first 15-episode season of the attraction ended its journey with a very low audience and official cancellation. The story took a turn when Netflix stepped in shortly after the show aired on Antena 3. The streaming service decided to buy the rights to the attraction and turned the 15 episodes into 22, separating them into two parts.
There is a legend surrounding the deal between Netflix and Antena 3 that the streaming giant would have paid just $2 (R$ 10.40) for the rights to La Casa de Papel. Although the actual figures were never released, the story of the very low number was reinforced by Andy Harries, a British producer who worked with Álex Pina to create the White Lines series.
“At the time, he [Pina] he had made and broadcast two seasons of La Casa de Papel. The series had already come out in Spain, and he was about to give up. Literally three months later, the series was canceled in Spain and bought by Netflix for just $2. They bought it without doing any promotion and, in just two weeks, it was number one in the world,” said Harries in a chat with press during Bafta 2019.
The cast of La Casa de Papel were surprised by the unexpected success of the series after its debut on the streaming service. Many of the actors were startled when they began to see the number of followers on social media increase exponentially.
In an interview with the documentary La Casa de Papel: The Phenomenon (2020), available on Netflix, Santander described the size of his surprise with the repercussion of the series. “She went to Netflix, but it was no big deal. It was just there to complete the basic catalogue. And then… The rest is history”, he said.
The absolute success achieved by the series made Netflix order two more new seasons, which debuted in the catalog in 2019. With only one week available on the platform, the third part of La Casa de Papel was seen by more than 34 million accounts – according to data disclosed by the streaming service to Variety magazine.
The result in the first week of the third part’s debut made La Casa de Papel the biggest release of a non-English language series on Netflix. The attraction was the most watched in countries like Brazil, United States, Argentina, France, Italy and Chile. In Variety, Pedro Alonso (who plays the rogue Berlin in the series) pointed out that La Casa de Papel placed Spanish productions on an equal footing with content produced in the United States, a worldwide reference.
Since its debut on Netflix, La Casa de Papel has received numerous awards around the world, including best drama series at the 2018 International Emmy. on December 3rd.
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