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Television in Spain was introduced in 1956, when the national state-owned public service television broadcaster Televisión Española (TVE) started regular analog free-to-air terrestrial black and white broadcasts. Colour transmissions started in 1972 after two years of test transmissions, with all programming transmitted in color in 1977, and colour commercials starting in 1978. TVE held a monopoly on television broadcasting until regional public channels were launched during the 1980s and commercial television started nationwide in 1990. Digital terrestrial television was launched on 30 November 2005 with analog service discontinued on 3 April 2010. Currently, television is one of the leading mass media of the country, and by 2008 was in 99.7% of households in Spain according to INE statistics.

Until recently terrestrial television was considered an essential public service. Broadcasting is managed both directly by the State and indirectly, through controlled concessions to private companies. The Audiovisual Law of 2010 changed this by defining radio and television as commercial services that individuals pay for, fostering liberalization within some constraints.


Analog free-to-air terrestrial black and white television began on 28 October 1956 in Spain. Televisión Española (now La 1) was the very first regular television channel, and operated alone until 15 November 1966, when TVE launched a second channel (now La 2). TVE started regular colour transmissions in 1972 after two years of test transmissions, with all programming transmitted in color in 1977, and colour commercials starting in 1978. They were the only authorized television channels in Spain, as TVE held a monopoly on television broadcasting, until the first regional public television channel was launched on 16 February 1983, when Euskal Telebista started broadcasting in the Basque Country. It was followed on 11 September 1983 by TV3 in Catalonia, on 24 July 1985 by Televisión de Galicia (TVG) in Galicia, on 28 February 1989 by Canal Sur in Andalusia, on 2 May 1989 by Telemadrid in Madrid and on 9 October 1989 by Canal Nou in the Valencian Community. The full liberalization of television with the law of 1989 permitted the establishment of private commercial channels.

Commercial television was launched on 25 January 1990, when Antena 3 started broadcasting nationwide. It was followed by Telecinco on 3 March 1990 and Canal+ on 14 September 1990. Both Antena 3 and Telecinco were free-to-air analog terrestrial channels while Canal+ was a pay analog terrestrial channel obliged to broadcast six free-to-air hours a day.[1] Sogecable's pay analog satellite multichannel television provider Canal Satélite was launched on 1 January 1994.[2] Two pay digital satellite multichannel television providers were launched in 1997, Canal Satélite Digital on 31 January (controlled by PRISA) and Vía Digital on 15 September (controlled by Telefónica, TVE Temática, Televisa and minority shareholders),[3] only to merge six years later, on 21 July 2003, to form Digital+,[4] renamed to Canal+ on 17 October 2011 after its flagship channel.

Through the 1990s and 2000s, more regional channels (most of them public, but some of them private) were launched. A number of them created FORTA, a union of public regional broadcasters. Many local channels were also launched, some of them created the Localia Network. During the 1990s, dozens of local channels started broadcasting without a license. The government declared that channels that proved to be operating for a long time could go on working, but blocked new unlicensed channels.

On 3 April 2010 the analog service was officially discontinued.[5]

Digital terrestrial television

TDT Transition

In the 2000s, the analog national and autonomic channels started simulcast on digital terrestrial television. In 2005, Canal+ stopped its analog service to move to Digital Plus and was substituted by Cuatro. Some weeks later, the last analog national private channel, La Sexta, started testing broadcasts, to begin its regular analog schedule in 2006. In 2009, the analog service started its closure in a process that lasted one year. The development of digital terrestrial television was very similar to the failure of ITV Digital in the United Kingdom. Digital terrestrial television was introduced in the country by the pay per view platform Quiero Television. In May 2002, statewide operators were required to start broadcasting in DVB-T. Yet, Quiero TV ceased transmissions in 2002 after a commercial failure. Unlike the UK, the three and half multiplexes left by the platform were not reassigned to other operators, and so 5 channels were squashed into a single multiplex.

On 30 November 2005, digital terrestrial television was relaunched as a free service with 20 channels and 14 radio stations, along with 23 regional- and local-language channels in their respective areas. Currently about 95% of the population can receive DTT. Each multiplex has a minimum of 4 SD channels each or one HD channel. Televisió de Catalunya and Aragón Televisión are using spare bandwidth in their own digital multiplex to broadcast test HD streams.

Modern free-to-air digital terrestrial television sector

Analog service was discontinued in April 2010. Since then, all national and regional terrestrial channels are digital. Together with the TDT transition and the process of absorption of channels in the late-2000s to early-2010s amid the Spanish financial crisis, the removal of commercials from RTVE by means of its 2009 Funding Law facilitated the creation of the duopoly formed by Mediaset España and Atresmedia,[6] that secures a 57% share of the audience and a 90% of advertising procurement.[7]

Television Española

Main article: Televisión Española

La 1 ("La Uno"): Spain's principal public-service television network, publicly owned and financed and offering programming aimed at a wide public. Previous names include La Primera Cadena and TVE-1. La 2 ("La Dos"): the country's second nationwide public channel, providing alternative programming to La 1. Previous names include UHF, La Segunda Cadena and TVE-2.

Type Channels Mux
Free-to-air La 1 (HD & UHD), La 2 (HD), 24 Horas (HD), Clan (HD), Teledeporte (HD), TVE UHD RGE1


Main article: Atresmedia

As of 2020, Atresmedia is the second largest free-to-air television network in terms of audience. It is owned by the Grupo Planeta.[8] It traces its origins to those of its flagship channel, Antena 3: one of the nationwide private television networks that received a broadcasting licence in 1989. Antena 3 airs general programs such as news, movies, reality shows, sport events and quizzes.

The network's secondary generalist channel, laSexta, traces its origins to the granting of another private license in 2005. It was then jointly owned by the Mexican giant Televisa (40%) and the Grupo Audiovisual de Medios de Producción (60%), which was in turn participated by Grupo Árbol-Globomedia (40%), Mediapro (38%), Drive (10%), El Terrat (7%) and Bainet (5%).[9]

However in the context of mergings in the late-2000 to early-2010s, the channels of Antena 3 and those of Mediapro merged in 2011, and LaSexta subsequently became part of the newly created Grupo Atresmedia.[10]

Type Channels Mux
Free-to-air Antena 3 (HD), La Sexta (HD), Neox (HD), Nova (HD), Mega (HD), Atreseries (HD) MPE2

Mediaset España

Main article: Mediaset España

As of 2020, Mediaset España is the television group with the largest audience.[11] It has its origins in the Gestevisión Telecinco, the society created in 1989 that was granted one of the first licenses for private free-to-air analogic terrestrial TV private channels in Spain: Tele 5 (later branded as Telecinco). It was initially formed by Italian media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi's Fininvest (25%), Grupo Anaya (25%), ONCE (25%) and other shareholders (25%),[12] although the share distribution has changed over the years, and, as of 2020, Mediaset España is owned via Mediaset Italia by the Berlusconi family,[11] and, in 2019, the group simply attempted to merge with Mediaset Italia.[13]

In 2009, already in the TDT transition era, Gestevisión agreed with PRISA's Sogecuatro to merge their businesses (most notably their flagship channels Telecinco and Cuatro), with Gestevisión absorbing Sogecuatro [es] in exchange of a minor participation of PRISA as shareholder of Gestevisión. In 2011, the media conglomerate was renamed to Mediaset España Comunicación S.A.[14] PRISA eventually sold its remaining shares in 2015.[15]

The flagship channel of the network remains Telecinco. Telecinco airs general programs such as news, movies, reality shows, sport events and quizzes. As secondary channel in the Mediaset network, Cuatro airs general programs such as news, movies, documentaries, reality shows, sport events and quizzes.

Type Channels Mux
Free-to-air Telecinco (HD), Cuatro (HD), FDF (HD), Divinity (HD), Energy (HD), Boing (HD), Be Mad (HD) MPE3

Regional broadcasters

Many of the Spanish regions (comunidades autónomas) have their own public network service: Telemadrid in the Madrid region, Canal Extremadura Televisión in Extremadura, 7RM in the Region of Murcia, Canal Sur in Andalusia, CMM TV in Castilla–La Mancha, TVG Televisión de Galicia, TV3 in Catalonia, À Punt in the Valencian Community, EITB Euskal Telebista in Basque Country, TPA in Asturias, TV Canaria in Canary Islands, etc. Most of these channels (called "las autonómicas") are integrated in the FORTA ("Federación de Organismos de Radio Televisión Autonómicos").

Among the flagship channels of the different autonomous communities, the Catalan TV3 stands out because it enjoys, by far, the largest share of audience in its respective region, leading, in fact, over the rest of terrestrial channels with a 14.6% share of audience in Catalonia in 2019.[16]

Other terrestrial television channels

Corporation Channel in High Definition Channel in 4K Radio station Mux
Sociedad Gestora de Televisión Net TV Disney Channel
Paramount Network
Veo Televisión DMax
Radio Marca
Vaughan Radio
Cadena 100
Radio María
Trece Trece Cope MPE4
Radio Blanca DKiss Kiss FM
Hit FM
Central Broadcaster Media Ten Cadena SER
Real Madrid Club de Fútbol Real Madrid TV MPE5

By autonomous community

Most-viewed channels

Monthly viewing shares in December 2021 (Top 10 individual channels):[17]

Position Channel Group Share of
total viewing
1 Antena 3 Atresmedia 13.8
2 Telecinco Mediaset España 13.2
3 La 1 Televisión Española 9.0
4 La Sexta Atresmedia 6.4
5 Cuatro Mediaset España 5.1
6 La 2 Televisión Española 3.1
7 FDF Mediaset España 2.5
8 Nova Atresmedia 2.3
9 Energy Mediaset España 2.2
10 Trece Conferencia Episcopal Española 2.1

Discontinued channels


Digital cable is slowly replacing the aging analog service of the major cable provider Ono. Telecable, a cable ISP operating in Asturias has begun trials for 1000 mega bytes per second service and is the first to broadcast HD channels. R, a cable operator in Galicia, has completely switched pay TV to digital (DVB-C) by 2008 but free channels are simulcast as analog services, so users without a set-top box can watch them (including most free-to-air channels available on digital terrestrial TV in each location).


Digital satellite services has existed since 1997 from Astra and Hispasat satellites. The Movistar+ pay platform has carried some HDTV tests on Astra 19.2°E on 16 June 2005. This platform (before Canal+) has a lot of exclusives channels as "#0" by February 2016 without having to pay the licence of the brand Canal+.[18]

A high definition version of Canal+ 1 (Canal+ 1 HD) formerly called "#0"; started on 29 January 2008, and ended on 31 July 2023, which is now replaced by Movistar Plus+, which is started broadcasting on 1 August 2023, together with HD versions of Canal+ Deportes (now Movistar Deportes) and Canal+ DCine (now Movistar Drama) broadcast from Astra 1KR.

Internet services

Available streaming service providers include Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, Movistar Plus+, DAZN, FlixOlé, Filmin, Rakuten TV or Disney+.[19][20] Atresmedia and Mediaset España launched their own pay services: Atresplayer Premium and Mitele Plus, respectively,[19] which are upgraded versions of their freely available services Atresplayer and Mitele [es] offering exclusive content on-demand. Free streaming services also include RTVE's RTVE Play and Pluto TV.[21]


This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (February 2021)

During the more than three decades of TVE's monopoly over TV broadcasting, TVE delivered a diverse fiction offer, both in terms of dramas and comedies as well as different production standards, although there was no special interest in an extended run of their series, and many of them simply often fit a prototypical one season & 13 episode profile.[22] TVE also imported fiction series from the United States.[22]

During the 1960s and 1970s, the scope of domestic fiction focused on theatrical and literary adaptations as well as region-themed fiction; in the particular case of comedy, productions underpinned the sense of costumbrismo and everyday life.[23]

By the early 1990s, in the context of the entry of the private channels, domestically-produced comedy fiction series seized on the prime time slot, until then a dominion of game shows, foreign series and domestic dramas.[24] A tendency to lengthen the duration of the episodes of comedy series manifested in this transitional period.[24]

After its kickstart in 2018, Turkish soap operas had become popular in Spain by 2021.[25] Also in the 2020s, low-budget "uplifting" German films had become a staple of the sobremesa timeslot on weekends (on TVE and Antena 3).[26] Driven by appeals to nostalgia, 2021 saw a number of projects remaking or reviving former Spanish fiction series.[27]

See also


  1. ^ Cid, Mikel (23 April 2015). "La historia de Canal+ en España, desde las emisiones codificadas a Telefónica". Xataka.
  2. ^ "Sogecable lanza Canalsatélite, la mayor oferta de televisión por satélite en España". El País. 13 January 1994.
  3. ^ Beceiro Ribela, Sagrario (2010). "El nacimiento de la televisión digital de pago por satélite en España". Trípodos. Facultat de Comunicació i Relacions Internacionals Blanquerna (26): 134.
  4. ^ Beceiro Ribela 2010, p. 134.
  5. ^ "Analogue TV Switch Off in Spain". The Sat & TV Guy. Retrieved 2022-12-11.
  6. ^ García Santamaría, José Vicente; Barranquero Carretero, Alejandro; Rosique Cedillo, Gloria (2017). "El mercado televisivo español del siglo XXI: concentración y precariedad". Observatorio. 11 (3): 146. doi:10.15847/obsOBS1132017774. hdl:10016/30065. ISSN 1646-5954.
  7. ^ García Santamaría, Barranquero Carretero & Rosique Cedillo 2017, p. 149.
  8. ^ Pérez Rufí 2020, p. 54.
  9. ^ Gómez, Rosario G. (25 November 2005). "El Gobierno adjudica a La Sexta el cuarto canal de televisión privada". El País.
  10. ^ Pérez Rufí 2020, p. 45.
  11. ^ a b Pérez Rufí 2020, pp. 52–53.
  12. ^ "Telecinco cumple 20 años siendo la televisión privada más vista de nuestro país". Mundoplus. March 2010.
  13. ^ Pérez Rufí 2020, p. 53.
  14. ^ "Gestevisión Telecinco pasa a ser Mediaset España Comunicación". 13 April 2011.
  15. ^ Forcada, D. (21 April 2015). "Prisa pujará por un nuevo canal tras sacar 550 millones por la venta de Cuatro". El Confidencial.
  16. ^ Espinel, Rodrigo (25 January 2020). "¿Cuáles son las cadenas de televisión autonómicas más vistas?". Producción audiovisual.
  17. ^ "Monthly Analysis of TV Audience - December 2021" (PDF). Barlovento Comunicación. Retrieved January 26, 2022.
  18. ^ "Diales. Frecuencias y Diales Movistar+ - Movistar+".
  19. ^ a b "La televisión del futuro vuelve a los anuncios". La Vanguardia. 15 October 2019.
  20. ^ Fernández, Eduardo (25 March 2020). "Disney+ se suma a la guerra del streaming: "Al final se quedarán los indispensables y nosotros lo somos"". El Mundo.
  21. ^ González, Gabriela (26 March 2021). "Pluto TV cumple cinco meses con tres nuevos canales gratis: así ha evolucionado la nueva plataforma de televisión online gratuita". GenBeta.
  22. ^ a b Hidalgo-Marí & Ferrer Ceresola 2018, pp. 227–228.
  23. ^ Hidalgo-Marí & Ferrer Ceresola 2018, p. 229.
  24. ^ a b Hidalgo-Marí & Ferrer Ceresola 2018, p. 235.
  25. ^ Roces, Pablo R.; Hurtado, Lluís Miquel (27 February 2021). "Turkish Soap Operas Flourish Worldwide. Their Audience is Successful and Erdogan Uses Them as a Political Weapon".
  26. ^ Sánchez, Nacho (4 April 2021). "Así conquistó el cine alemán la hora de la siesta". El País.
  27. ^ Robaina González, Paula (18 April 2021). "Javier Mendo y Gracia Olayo vuelven a interpretar a Borja Ruano y Rosa Ruano en 'Los protegidos. El regreso'". FormulaTV.