Primetime soap sweeping the competition

SANTIAGO — The latest telenovela from Television Nacional de Chile (TVN) has shattered daily and season ratings records — grabbing a whopping 80% audience share — and solidifying the broadcaster’s position.

“Amores del Mercado” (Lovers in the Market) is set in a farmers’ market in Santiago and is about a poor young man who takes over the life of his rich identical twin.

The nightly hourlong soap has pummeled the competition in its 8 p.m. slot, successfully translating the national moods of class envy and budget consciousness into top ratings.

“One day we hit a peak of 64 points — it was amazing,” says TVN drama productions director Pablo Avila. That’s equal to an 80% aud share.

The previous record for a Chilean series was 53 points, set by veteran variety-show host Mario Kreutzberger, aka Don Francisco.

Since its August debut, “Amores” has averaged 51 points, or about a 65% aud share, according to ratings agency TIME-IBOPE.

Rival pulls show

Shortly after “Amores” bowed, rival broadcaster Universidad Catolica Television (UCTV/Canal 13) pulled its novela “Piel Canela” from the same timeslot and has been searching for another contender. It is airing Colombian sudser “Pedro el Escamoso,” but it hasn’t made much headway against “Amores.”

The show, which finishes its run this month, has helped TVN woo back viewers who had turned to more liberal pay TV options.

Santiago-based VTR Cable has successfully boosted subscribers with a promise of no censorship on its system, for example.

UCTV/Canal 13 is managed by the Catholic church, which is loath to air programming that shows premarital affairs or unmarried couples in bed.

TVN attributes the success of “Amores del Mercado” to a strong script that addresses contemporary social issues.

The novela has been sold to the Dominican Republic, and TVN is optimistic about other export prospects.

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