Updated Thursday,26October2023-21:30

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  • Television This is what a day looks like in the guts of El Hormiguero: "The key to our success is to work an hour longer than the person next door"
  • TV: This is how the news programs that have defeated even Homer Simpson are made

Is everything you see on TV real? Yes, but... There is always a but, and in this case the but is that on television you see the beautiful, the entertaining, the spectacular and what you don't see are the hundreds of people who work behind the cameras, the frenetic newsrooms of each program, the shadows of each presenter, those who rule, who are the ones who decide what to do to be the best, the maintenance team that turns one set's set into another's set, the security members who guard the doors, the make-up artists who make magic, the producers who put it on the line... So many people literally live on a television. What if that television is also the leader in Spain, the one with the most viewers?

Delving into the guts of Atresmedia, the leading audiovisual group in Spain, and its channels, Antena 3 and laSexta, is a journey into a completely different dimension to the one that arrives through the small screen. In Roald Dahl's famous book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mike Teevee is one of five children who get the golden pass to enter the world of Willy Wonka. Mike is an aggressive, television-addicted boy who ends up inside a TV that he can only get out of by stretching it out like chewing gum to make it look minimally normal again. In the book, everything is a game of imagination in which to enter the TV is to become a small character in a world of one's own. A day inside Atresmedia doesn't reach so much reverie, but it's something similar, it's entering a world totally unimaginable for all of us who sit in our armchair every day and press the power button on the controller.

Antonio Segovia, make-up and hairdressing coordinator at Atresmedia and one of those people who has been in the house since the first day Antena 3 started broadcasting, is one of the pieces of the puzzle that makes it possible for the final result to be so spectacular that sometimes it even seems unreal. She says that she has lived hundreds of anecdotes, such as the time a guest arrived who "had her hair like a tangle, full of tangles and dreadlocks" and they had to dedicate hours and hours to fix the mess. But above all, she discovers an open secret: make-up and hairdressing sets are like a psychologist's couches. "It's where they tell us everything about their lives. The makeup artist knows all the exclusives before they come out!" she says. Everyone passes through his hands and those of his team: the presenter, the collaborator, the guest...

Production control by Atresmedia.MARÍA VILLANUEVA

An unthinkable information centre, as are the wide and eternal corridors in which glass walkways cross where they had to put drawings so that the birds would not collide, and where it is impossible not to meet one of the approximately 2,000 people who work in the facilities of San Sebastián de los Reyes (Madrid). or even a celebrity, a politician, a sports legend or, of course, more than one great television star.

It is curious that as soon as you pass the security control, the first thing you find is a splendid cafeteria with high tables and also comfortable armchairs arranged in a circle. There, it is easy to find Josep Pedrerol preparing the next Chiringuito (he prefers meetings over coffee) or one of the members of Communication organizing the next presentation. There is noise, a lot of noise, like the noise of the internal machinery of a clock in which the gears never stop working. Each one independent, but all in unison.

"Whenever there are recordings of the galas of The Voice, small groups of young people come to try to catch the coaches at the entrance or exit," confesses Pedro Bermúdez while the rumble of the Nespresso plays. He is one of the members of Atresmedia's Security Department, who protect and guard the entrance. "This work is very nice because you realise the strength of television", he adds, while revealing some of the best-kept secrets, such as when a Prime Minister or an important politician comes: "We have to activate very precise protocols where rigour is essential so that everything runs naturally, smoothly" and, of course, No surprises. It's the machinery, the gear, the part...

It's impossible to lead two years in a row if you don't have a job and a strategy beforehand

Carlos Fernández, CEO of Atresmedia TV

Next Wednesday, Antena 3 will celebrate exactly two years as the leading television station in Spain. It was on November 1, 2021 when the sorpasso to its rival, Telecinco, took place, which has led it to its longest streak of leadership: 24 consecutive months. Quite a change of cycle in our country's television. They're celebrating, or they should be, because no one lets their guard down here. Absolutely no one. It is repeated over and over again by the woman behind one of Atresmedia's biggest stars: the director of Y ahora Sonsoles.

Patricia Lennon is that person you never see, the one who rules in the shadows. It has a level of self-demand that can be breathed, that is contagious, that is "the same as Sonsoles", the same as its newsroom. A newsroom that has doubled since the first day of broadcasting and in which the intensity and stress can be glimpsed in the rushing from one table to another, in the occupied offices, in the noise of chairs crawling from a computer to the one in front of it: "On television every day is a challenge. Even if we are doing well and being leaders, we cannot be satisfied. Zero relaxation. In fact, it's the other way around: the more we get, the more we ask and the more we demand of ourselves."

Becoming number one is hard, as that mythical phrase about fame warned, but staying there is even harder, especially on a television that is no longer like it was 20 years ago, even if the viewer is not aware of it. Audiences have become fragmented after the emergence of platforms, there is more and more content and less time to consume it, so there is no choice but to hit the nail on the head: give the viewer what they are looking for. If it fails, it is tried again; If he succeeds, woe to him who is stuck rejoicing in success.

Antena 3's leadership goes beyond genres and time slots. Month after month, Antena 3 has the most watched news programs (A3 Noticias has 47 consecutive months of leadership), the most watched programs on television (El Hormiguero, Pasapalabra, La Voz, Tu Cara Me Suena, Mask Singer, La Ruleta, Y ahora Sonsoles...) and the most watched series, with hits such as Secretos de Familia, Tierra amarga, Alba, Brothers or Love is forever. Is something being done right? "No, something started to be done right more than five years ago," say workers of the coffee-in-hand chain. No one holds the key to success, but at Atresmedia they are clear that one of the pillars that always supports it is to work as if you were not the leader.

Almudena Cid chats in one of the countless corridors of Atresmedia.MARÍA VILLANUEVA

"This is not achieved by chance," says Carlos Fernández, CEO of Atresmedia TV, "television is very complex and one thing that Javier Bardají [CEO of the audiovisual group] has always been clear about is that it is impossible to lead two years in a row if there is no strategy and previous work that leads you to that leadership."

And the fact is that in television, says this television-loving sociologist, "there is no Big Bang" from which "a new reality is generated", but rather that we learn from day to day, without "accelerators" and anticipating what is to come. That's what happens in the programs.

Patricia Lennon says, for example, that although she arrives at the newsroom at ten o'clock in the morning (and does not leave until after eight), from eight o'clock she is already aware of consulting the hearings and analyzing them with the whole team. Yes, also with Sonsoles, who does not have an office as such as almost any of the great presenters of Atresmedia. The vast majority prefer to work in the nerve center of each newsroom. Sonsoles next to Lennon, Cristina Pardo with her team, Sandra Golp, in the newsroom with hers. And everyone running from one place to another because "you can't relax for a second," says the director of Y ahora Sonsoles. "You have to be on the lookout all the time," he adds.

The Atresmedia cafeteria.MARÍA VILLANUEVA

There's something surprising about asking about the relaxation that leadership provides. The answer is a resounding no: "Let's see, when you do a good piece of information you come more relaxed, -Sonsoles, too (laughs)-, but it's true that we're not one to celebrate but to think about the next day. Of course, if you have a bad piece of information... Now that's the other way around."

And that "upside down" is what you never see. The pressures, the tension, the responsibility, the stress of everything having its place, of choosing the right topics (the ones that matter), that "you never sell to anyone live" or crossing the red lines that have been marked. To do this, talking to each other is constant, even arguing if necessary. "Let's see, if you have to honk your horn, you hit it," Lennon confesses.

Across the corridor Farmacia de Guardia, named in honor of the mythical series, between cables and cameras, Susanna Griso appears in her armchair. We are entering the set of Espejo Público, but also that of Y ahora Sonsoles. The program is on a commercial break. Lying down, Susanna Griso chats with two of her collaborators. On one side, Gema López, the co-presenter of the social table, chats with Alberto Díaz, the director, quietly, almost in a whisper, that no one listens to them. Behind them, the armchair, the cameras, the spotlights, an immense space in which you can find everything from bales of straw – yes, bales of straw, just as you are reading it – to the seats in the stands that will house the audience of Sonsoles Ónega or the presenter's chair, the only one that has a cushion.

Because in this kind of Disneyland that is Atresmedia, everything moves, everything transforms, everything changes. There is a travel agency, a Banco Santander office and even buggies to move from one set to another.

Our job is to anticipate before problems explode in our hands

Javier Casado, program producer at Atresmedia

"We have many pieces of a puzzle," acknowledges Javier Casado, program producer at Atresmedia, "and the challenge is to make them all fit together: presenters, directors, lighting, cameras... That all of this is coordinated so that a great format arrives." Television production is out of this world. Javier tries to define what they do with several words: "solvers", "improvisers", "innovators". They would be, to put it bluntly, some of the many who eat the browns that a TV show, a series or a gala always carries with them.

"We faced great unforeseen events with a lot of imagination," he concludes, and remembers that day when Antena 3 broadcast the last episode of the Velvet series live and they had to bring from France a huge mobile unit – there were none in Spain – that did not enter the street where it was going to be broadcast. They had to block the street, notify the police, clear the area... "It's not easy at all," he confesses, "a large part of our job is to anticipate and solve it before it explodes in our hands" and that is what experience gives: "The more you have, the more you see them coming." Because that's how you live in a leading television: without conforming, anticipating... A steady long-distance race.

  • Antenna 3
  • Sonsoles Ónega
  • Susanna Griso