New nets, original programming planned for growing market

Change channel from English to Spanish and you’ll find the steep drop-off in upfront television ad dollars is definitely not the plot at the two major Spanish-lingo networks. Both are planning to launch new networks, raking in more money and producing more original programming in the 2001-2002 season for the burgeoning U.S. Hispanic population of more than 35 million. And networks expect upfront ad revenues this season to grow about 20% from last year, when Telemundo brought in $175 million to Univision’s $500 million.

First out of the gate will be second-place Telemundo’s new cable net, mun2, Wednesday, targeting the 18-34 U.S. Hispanic demographic. Net will launch to 2.7 million households with a live gala from Orlando, Fla.

Centerpiece strip on the new cable web, which is replacing the current Gems network that Telemundo bought a year ago, is “FuZion.” It features Mexican hosts Alfonso de Anda and Kenya fronting a half-hour magazine program on entertainment, music and film in a format where the crew is part of the show.

Alternative directions

“We found out that young Hispanics are not being targeted, that Spanish-language TV is missing the young audience,” says Manuel Abud, president of Telemundo Cable. “We think we have a great opportunity with new, alternative programming. We also found in our research that was what ad agencies were asking for. It’s that combination of factors that gives us direction.”

Mun2 will also feature a half-dozen musical shows spotlighting hip-hop, Latin pop, Spanish rock and Mexican regional music as part of its 12 hours a day of original programming. Rest of the schedule is booked with talk, comedy and gameshows.

Espanol market leader Univision Communications will launch its new Spanish-lingo network, Telefutura, in January. The nation’s third Spanish broadcast net will reach 80% of U.S. Hispanic households. It also seeks to counterprogram traditional schedules to reach viewers looking for an alternative, specifically those who watch English-language TV, with a mix of news, telenovelas, talk, variety, movies and sports.

New fall shows for Univision, which is producing more than half its scheduled programming in the U.S., include “Los Metiches,” a weekly comedy hour; “Noche de Gigantes,” a one-hour variety show; “Pica y Se Extiende,” a gossip/celebrity show; “Marta Susana,” a morning talkshow; and “Ver Para Creer,” a reality show. A steady diet of new and returning telenovelas, original movies, news and exclusive World Cup coverage rounds out the schedule on the network, which reaches 92% of Hispanic households.

Assist from the Mouse

Smaller rival Telemundo is building on the tremendous popularity of the novela genre in nightly primetime with three new offerings, the just-bowed “Provocame,” set in the Argentine equestrian world and starring Puerto Rican heartthrob Chayanne; “Pedro el Escamoso,” a love triangle romancer; and “Uga Uga,” about a boy raised in the jungle. Net will run a Disney family movie Saturday nights, and its first new music show in three years, “Buena Onda!” News show “Noticiero Telemundo” will expand to seven nights, and a new children’s block will run weekend mornings.

“The Spanish-language television landscape is changing,” says James McNamara, Telemundo prexy and CEO.

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