‘Laura’ moves home

Latin America's hit talker jumps to Telemundo

MIAMI — Talker host Laura Bozzo begins production Aug. 13 in Lima, Peru, on a new season of her popular “Laura en America,” this time under the shingle of U.S. Hispanic broadcaster Telemundo.

Launched in Peru in February 1998 on America TV Canal 4, the social-issues show also airs in Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Bolivia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. (It was pulled for content reasons from Chile, Venezuela and Mexico.)

And it has been a ratings hit for Telemundo since it bowed on that web in January 2000.

Bozzo’s success in the 4 p.m. weekdays slot is believed to have prompted dominant Spanish-lingo broadcaster Univision to shift its long-running hit talker “El Show de Cristina” to 3 p.m.

Now “Laura” is up against Univision’s gossip/celebrity news chatshow “El Gordo y La Flaca,” which it was outperforming in late July, according to Nielsen Hispanic ratings data.

“Laura” has even managed to edge out English-lingo talkers in some markets, ranking No. 1 overall among adults 18-49 during Feb. sweeps in Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago.

So when political scandal and financial troubles at America TV Canal 4 appeared to be threatening the show’s future, Telemundo agreed to take over production, with the new season slated to kick off in the U.S. in mid-October. (America TV still holds transmission rights in Peru, according to Emilce Elgarresta, Telemundo’s VP of programming and production.)

Telemundo is investing to enhance production values, is adding a new set design, and is renting studios that will accommodate a bigger audience, Elgarresta says. The new show also will include supporting footage shot outside the studio.

Right formula

Bozzo maintains the original formula is still the key to its success. “For the first time, there was an alternative,” Bozzo says. “My program targets the poor, the humble, who have never had an outlet on television.”

Her focus on the lower classes and women’s issues has helped fuel interest, says John Cuddihy, senior VP of program distribution for Latin America and the Caribbean at Columbia TriStar Intl. Television, which is handling international sales.

But although she has been lauded for breaking new ground on social issues, Bozzo has been criticized for pushing the boundaries of taste.

As a result, “Laura” has been pulled in Chile, Venezuela and Mexico due to governmental issues with content.

Though still firmly ensconced in Peru, Telemundo wants to take “Laura” on the road, with specials planned for Miami, Los Angeles and Mexico.

A special produced by Telemundo in Puerto Rico — where the net’s O&O is the top-rated station — was a big success, says Elgarresta.

Last month Elgarresta and Bozzo traveled to Mexico to meet with CTIT execs, as well as independent researchers and producers to begin the groundwork for cases to feature on future shows.

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