Telemundo pumps up novelas

Net sets new formats for next season

MIAMI — Under the banner “Hecho para ti” (Made for You), Telemundo underlined Tuesday its designed-for-U.S. auds strategy with new novelas and formats at the 2005-2006 upfront.

Slogan anchors a new consumer branding campaign, but Telemundo still faces an uphill battle against Spanish-language behemoth Univision, which dominates the market, especially in primetime, where it programs novelas from Mexico’s Televisa.

Telemundo has lost ground over the last year. During a conference call with reporters, execs said Telemundo has a 17% share of Spanish-language TV viewers aged 18-49 compared to a primetime share of 24%-26% in the first quarter of 2004.

Univision also claims the No. 2 spot for its 3-year-old net Telefutura during certain dayparts.

Early this month, Telemundo cut short the U.S.-produced sudser “La ley del silencio,” its first production from Fremantle.

“Audiences didn’t respond,” said Telemundo exec VP of programming and production Ramon Escobar. Not every show will work, he acknowledged, but promised, “This does not preclude us from working with any producer.”

Telemundo wouldn’t reveal how much it is investing in original productions, but the amount has been increasing under NBC ownership.

Investment increased

In 2003, Telemundo ponied up about $40 million for original novela productions, upping that by $10 million-$20 million in 2004.

“We’re focused on quality, execution and better performance, which translates into better ratings,” said Don Browne, who was upped from chief operating officer to prexy in early April, replacing former prexy and CEO Jim McNamara.

The fall primetime lineup includes four new novelas. Telemundo also is introducing two weekly drama series plus a new miniseries and more reality productions.

Skedded for 7 p.m. this fall is the family/teen-oriented soap “Segundo tiempo” (Second Chance), a production with Mexico’s Argos that revolves around soccer.

Following at 8 is sudser “El cuerpo del deseo,” a production from the Miami-based RTI-Telemundo joint venture that stars Lorena Rojas and Mexican thesp Andres Garcia.

Garcia is well known for films and numerous novelas with Televisa — and for his rep as a ladies’ man. He’ll appear on Telemundo this summer on the dating/courtship reality show “Principe Azul” (Prince Charming), from Galan Entertainment.

Twenty women will vie for the attentions of Andres’ son, actor Leonardo Garcia. Dad will tag along since he’s single. But Leonardo’s mum — Andres’ ex-wife — will be on the scene, too, along with other family members.

“Principe Azul” will lead right into “El Cuerpo” in the fall, Escobar said.

Stolen baby story

Rounding out the new sudsers is another Argos production, the 9 p.m. “La encrucijada,” starring Danna Garcia as a woman whose baby was taken away.

At 10 Telemundo will bow RTI’s “La tormenta,” about a spoiled woman (Natalia Streignard) who loses everything except a ranch in the country where she tangles with rough-hewn farmer Christian Meier. Soap is filmed in Colombia.

Later in the season, it will introduce novelas “Polvorita,” about a sweet girl and an uptight businessman; beauty-pageant set “Reinas”; and “Corazon indomable,” featuring novela stars Saul Lisazo and Gabriela Spanic.

Telemundo will introduce on weekends two 13-episode dramas, a format with limited success in Spanish with Hispanic auds. “Loteria” will look at what happens to lottery winners; “Envios” revolves around immigrants who send money back home.

New reality shows include “La Quinceanera,” a look at the traditional party for 15-year-old Latinas. The final episode will be a pageant with the teens from the series competing for a crown and a scholarship.

Also on the sked is the dream fulfillment show “Suenos y sorpresas.”

Upcoming miniseries “Pedro Navaja” is set in New York and inspired by the story of love, betrayal and murder recounted in Ruben Blades’ 1970s song of the same name.

Making use of the U connection, Telemundo will air the special “Fiesta de ano nuevo,” a New Year’s concert at Universal Studios in Orlando.

Telemundo is also promoting a new research tool called Behavior Graphics, which will combine Nielsen ratings data with consumer behavior data from Simmons, said Steve Mandala, senior VP of sales and marketing for Telemundo and NBC Universal Networks.

The net is also offering clients packages that can combine TV ads, off-air local events and online, among other options.

“We were hearing from clients that they want more one-stop shopping,” Mandala said.

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