• TV 'El Conquis', the most extreme reality in the world that sweeps Basque television putting life to the limit

If you ask any Basque what El Conquistador is, his answer will almost certainly be "it is a social phenomenon". They are not exaggerating. The Basque public television programme produced by Hostoil Produkzioak (The Mediapro Studio) is not only the exception that confirms the rule in today's television but a real milestone: with 19 seasons, El Conquistador has maintained its success since its premiere in 2005 with average audiences exceeding 20% of screen share.

With these data it was more than foreseeable that sooner or later a national television would launch for this goose that lays the golden eggs. What has surprised is that they have not been neither Atresmedia nor Mediaset, but who has put the offer on the table and has won the contest is RTVE.



'El Conquis', the most extreme reality show in the world that sweeps Basque television putting life to the limit

  • Writing: PABLO R. ROCES Madrid

'El Conquis', the most extreme reality show in the world that sweeps Basque television putting life to the limit

"It is difficult to predict if the public broadcaster has succeeded with this bet," explains José Manuel Eleta, deputy director of Barlovento Comunicación, "but it is about those prime time products that are programmed without fear and without looking for the gaps of public that the competition is leaving on the different nights of the week. "

To get an idea of what El Conquistador has meant these almost 20 years for the ETB, the premiere of its nineteenth season last January marked a 24% audience. A fact that few programs reach today, and more, in a regional television.

Here there is epic, there is pain, real crying... And this can only be given by a program like this

Raquel Sanchez Silva

"The key to the format is that it's true and very different from any survival show," says Amparo Castellano, director of nonfiction at The Mediapro Studio. But it's not just that. Of course El Conquistador is not a survival program to use, in El Conquistador you really suffer and "you see the limit of people both physically and mentally," says Cesc Escolà, fitness trainer and one of the three captains – the others are Joana Pastrana and Patxi Salinas – of the new adventure of El Conquistador at the national level. In addition, El Conquistador has an ace up its sleeve that few programs have: it triumphs among young people.

"Not only has he been able to gather the family around the television, but he has also garnered spectacular ratings among young people, an audience very elusive of linear television," explains Eleta.

"Young people have joined the bandwagon in a spectacular way," says Castellano. "In the Basque Country it is a real social phenomenon and has jumped to Latin America or Australia. So in RTVE we hope to conquer viewers throughout Spain, "he concludes.

Will the Conqueror unseat MasterChef?

All in all, El Conquistador "is a winning asset that comes in a streak alisea of RTVE", adds Eleta. And a "winning card", precisely, is what a public chain like RTVE needs that little by little and thanks to its director of general content, José Pablo López, is beginning to put strong pressure on private channels.

The only doubt is whether there is any precedent of programs on regional television that made the leap to national television and did not end in failure. There are not many. "The precedents are located in other radically different formats such as Madrid Directo or Madrileños por el Mundo, which have nothing to do with a large prime time format," says Eleta. Formats that, in addition, did not match the success achieved in Telemadrid.

But, indeed, these cases have little to do with the phenomenon of El Conquistador. In fact, RTVE sources say that the chain "has all the hopes placed in the program and hopes that it will trigger the audience of the public entity".

Of course, the hens that lay the golden eggs are not cheap or free. The Board of Directors of the Public Corporation approved a few months ago the contracting proposal with Hostoil Produkzioak for the production of 14 chapters of El Conquistador for an amount of 5,653,101 euros plus VAT. A not inconsiderable amount for a television program even if the production of this is very high due to the dynamics of the same -the team displaced to the Dominican Republic is made up of more than 250 people-.

That is, the jump from the Basque television program to the national one can be compared with the costs that a large fiction blockbuster would entail, which are usually around 5 or 5.5 million euros. Now, if you start adding up all the production that El Conquistador carries with it – 392,857 euros per chapter – the amount is more than reasonable for the benefit that is expected to be obtained from it.

However, although it may seem a scandalous amount for a public television, this time the experts are clear that RTVE has made the best bet. "Standing at 14% or 15% share would already be a success for the program," they say. RTVE has no doubt that not only will they reach those screen quotas but that it could surpass them, unleaving, if it succeeds, the until now jewel in the crown of public television, MasterChef.

The keys to the success of El Conquistador

The contests of adventures and tests of resistance and overcoming always have a high acceptance in the public. In the beginnings of Supervivientes, for example, when it was more a contest than a reality show and the participants were not famous but anonymous, the audience data was as astronomical as those of El Conquistador in the ETB.

We wanted to make the toughest adventure program in the world

Patxi Alonso, Director of Hostoil

"We wanted to make the hardest adventure program in the world", says Patxi Alonso, general director of Hostoil, who reveals that for this new edition in La 1 "the program has been modernized", but clarifies that "it is not an Ironman": "There are elite athletes and people who want to leave their comfort zone. The spectators are going to feel identified."

In fact, one of the concerns of the ETB jump is the acceptance of the program at the national level. However, again the data has removed any clouds. Since RTVE opened the inscriptions and until it closed them, 1,500 people signed up, of which only 33 of these, 18 men and 15 women, are since last May 25 recording the 14 deliveries in the Caribbean.

Divided into three teams, for a month and in the wildest environmental conditions, these 33 people will face challenges rarely seen on television in the complicated enclaves of the Haitises National Park. There they will be accompanied by the master of ceremonies of El Conquistador, Julián Iantzi, and Raquel Sánchez Silva, who returns to an adventure program after passing through Survivors and Beijing Express.

"It's going to be the experience of a lifetime, because satisfaction is proportional to suffering," says Iantzi, who knows the show well after 19 years as a presenter. "There's epic here, there's real pain, real crying... And this can only be given by an adventure program like this, "says Sánchez Silva.

According to the criteria of The Trust Project

Learn more