In the latest sign of HBO’s growing interest in the Hispanic market, its HBO Independent Prods. unit has cut an exclusive, first-look deal with comedian/actor Paul Rodriguez’s company to produce programming primarily aimed at the fast-growing population segment.

HBO Independent Prods.’ deal calls for the production unit to get first crack at the series and dramas produced by Rodriguez’s 3-year-old I Was Framed Prods.

Although not all the programs I Was Framed will develop will be aimed at Latinos, HBO Independent Prods. president Chris Albrecht said the move primarily reflects HBO’s desire to tap into a segment of the population that will become increasingly influential in the years ahead.

Recently, HBO demonstrated its interest in the U.S. and Latin American Latino markets with the formation of a new multimedia development company, Tropix (Daily Variety, Nov. 30).

This first-look deal is not part of the Tropix arrangement, but Albrecht hopes there will be some cross-fertilization between the two. Tropix will develop original TV programming aimed at Hispanics, reporting to HBO Independent Prods.

Rodriguez has a long history with Albrecht and with HBO. Albrecht represented Rodriguez when he was an agent with ICM in the early 1980s and negotiated the comic’s deal with ABC for the short-lived comedy series “A.K.A. Pablo” in 1983- 84. Rodriguez also has been one of the stars of HBO’s Comic Relief specials.

I Was Framed was formed by Rodriguez and his manager/partner Jeff Wald three years ago. It is the production entity behind the talkshow “El Show de Paul Rodriguez,” which airs nationally on Univision, and is developing “Blood and Justice,” an NBC movie in association with Jimmy Smits and Morrow-Heus Prods.

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