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Teen telenovelas to stay despite 'Rebelde' departure

MEXICO CITY — Televisa’s said goodbye to its longest running teen telenovela “Rebelde” June 2 after three seasons.

It had pretty much done its work.

Spinoff music group RBD is on track to become bigger than N’Sync, or any other teen band of its ilk.

The group — Anahi Puente, Alfonso Herrera, Dulce Maria Espinoza, Christian Chavez, Maite Perroni and Christopher Uckermann — has sold more than 7.5 million albums worldwide in 18 months, including nearly 1 million in the U.S.

“It’s amazing; we never expected this,” says Pedro Damian, the veteran producer and marketing manager behind the TV series and music group.

So what can replace “Rebelde”? “Codigo postal” took over the 6 p.m. slot June 5.

The show is “Beverly Hills 90210” meets “The O.C.” A strikingly blond cast cavorts on the beaches and in the discos of Acapulco amid the scandals of young love and the tragedies of the adult cast — telenovela diva Veronica Castro stars but will be killed off shortly after launch.

The kids don’t sing, but the show features a prominent soundtrack of Anglo, Afro-Caribbean and Hip-Hop tunes.

“We are working within the visual framework of these U.S. shows that are on cable in Mexico, and we have to compete with that quality,” says producer Jose Alberto Castro, who made hit telenovela “Rubi,” the first Televisa telenovela sold into France, now on M6.

Televisa’s teen telenovelas have all been based at school; “Codigo” is based in the exclusive Las Brisas area of Acapulco.

Televisa rarely films telenovelas outside Mexico City, but Castro insists the higher production costs will pay off by giving the audience a new setting. “Acapulco represents something for all Mexicans, it’s a magical place,” Castro says.

Meanwhile, “Rebelde” fans can keep up with the rebel kids’ recording career.

EMI’s Virgin label is producing the English-language disc — set for an October release — which will include a collaboration with Hillary Duff. 

The group’s six biggest hits from its two Spanish albums are being re-recorded into English in Mexico City, and four or five songs will be laid down in Miami this month.

Chris Anokute, at Virgin Pop Artists and Repertoire, is planning an English language ballad by hit-songwriter Diane Warren. Tim Mitchell, the producer behind Shakira’s boffo crossover, is in the studio for the English songs.

“The crossover impact could be big, on the level of a late-’90s boy band,” Anokute says.

RBD is already registering on the Billboard 200 without English radio play, and has sold out arena shows across the U.S. during its first 42-city tour, which ends July 31.

“This is the biggest phenomenon you haven’t heard of,” Anokute says.

Virgin plans to release English and Spanish albums in Japan and Europe as well.

The series just bowed in Spain on Antena 3, and Televisa is talking to Asian broadcasters.

After completing the U.S. tour, Damian plans to shoot a movie with Televisa’s film arm Videocine during August and September, before a Latin America tour in October.

Televisa executives are already plotting to bring back the “Rebelde” cast for a sitcom — the rebel kids graduate from school to college — but Damian is leaning against it. “When you have done something so big, a follow-up like that could be a downer.”

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