Castro, Menem among guests on sports legend's talker

BUENOS AIRES — Former Argentinean soccer superstar Diego Maradona is readying a TV talker.

Maradona, arguably the country’s greatest living hero, is close to signing a deal with third-ranked broadcaster America TV to host the “Maradona Show.” Backed by a live band, he will interview famous guests and chat with callers.

The first big names expected as guests are Cuban President Fidel Castro, former Argentinean President Carlos Menem and local television personalities Marcelo Tinelli and Moria Casan.

Jorge Rial, the new programming director of America TV, said the one-hour show would probably launch in the fourth quarter.

Industry watchers said the show may bow as soon as September, slated for a 9 p.m. Wednesday slot, airing against “Popstars” on leading broadcaster Telefe and hit sudser “Son amores” (They Are Lovers) on second-ranked Artear-Canal 13.

Maradona has been wooed by America TV’s new programming director, journalist and TV host Jorge Rial, who started work July 31. Rial is handling some of the duties of Patricia Veber, who resigned as programming manager for undisclosed reasons after his appointment.

From politics to pop culture

A 19-year veteran of print, radio and TV journalism, Rial is best known as host of “Intrusos en el espectaculo” (Intruders in the Show), a midday gossip and scandal magazine show.

He reports to general manager Juan Cruz Avila, son of America’s president and majority shareholder Carlos Avila.

Rial plans to add dramas and series to America, expanding on a lineup of newscasts, magazines and talkshows that has helped the broadcaster edge ahead of Azul TV in the ratings this year. Apart from Maradona, he also aims to recruit other well-known personalities to host shows, including comedian Enrique Pinti.

Rial faces stiff competition from fourth-ranked Azul, which is revamping its programming under new owners.

Daniel Hadad, who heads the trio of businessmen that bought Azul in July, has vowed to overtake America in the rankings by October. Hadad and his partners plan to redub the network Canal 9 this month.

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