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Telemundo, Grupo Xtra pact

Estudios Mexicanos will ramp up prod'n of telenovelas

NBC Universal’s U.S. Hispanic web, Telemundo, has partnered with Mexican holding company Grupo Xtra to form two companies: one for the production of television content and the other to explore investment opportunities in Mexican TV.

Estudios Mexicanos Telemundo will be ramping up production of telenovelas and other genres by the fourth quarter of this year, according to Telemundo prexy Don Browne.

Grupo Xtra, founded by Isaac Saba Raffoul in 1993, is a holding company with businesses in tourism, real estate development, finance and textile.

Telemundo had been producing telenovelas with Mexico City-based indie prodco Argos; that collaboration likely will continue on a per-project basis.

Browne and his team were in Mexico City to look at their real estate options, among other issues. Company is looking to retrofit an existing structure.

“Setting up a studio in Mexico City is another stepping stone toward making Telemundo a global Hispanic channel,” NBC prexy/chief operating officer Randy Falco told Daily Variety.

Through its studios in Colombia and Miami, Telemundo churns out 20,000 hours of programming, making it the second-largest producer of Spanish-language programming after Mexico’s media giant Televisa. Its original novelas have been ratings hit in territories including Spain, Colombia and Venezuela.

Browne, who marks his first year as company prexy next week, has no qualms about Televisa’s virtual stranglehold on writing and acting talent in Mexico.

“We have had so much success the past year that we have no trouble attracting talent,” he said.

NBC parent GE was shut out by Mexico’s No. 2 net TV Azteca in taking a stake in the bankrupt Canal 40, a small UHF station in Mexico City. Forced off air since last May due to a workers strike, Canal 40’s signal turned back on in February under Azteca control.

Palmas 26, controlled by Grupo Xtra, seeks to enter the Mexican television market. For this purpose, and in strict compliance with Mexican legislation, “We have invited Telemundo to participate as a minority investor in ‘neutral’ shares, subject to the approval of relevant Mexican government regulators,” said Grupo Xtra VP Manuel Saba.

“Having a new television option would contribute immensely to the growth of Mexico,” he added.

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