Original programming played front and center at the upfront presentations of U.S. Hispanic webs Univision and Telemundo this week.
Univision, now owned by a Haim Saban-led group of private equity investors, unveiled two original scripted skeins — rare for a company that’s largely relied on telenovelas from its primary supplier, Mexico’s Televisa, and, to a lesser extent, Venezuela’s Venevision.
Jennifer Lopez and crooner husband Marc Anthony were on hand at the Univision upfront for the first time Wednesday. Lopez presented Univision’s first foray into the miniseries genre, “Como Ama una Mujer” (How a Woman Loves), a five-part skein inspired by true-life events and based on Lopez’s Spanish-language CD of the same title. Lopez is creator and exec producer of the skein. Anthony performed the closing number at the packed presentation. Show featured soccer star David Beckham, who sent his greetings via an uplink.
Univision also unveiled its ambitious remake of ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” “Amas de Casa Desesperadas,” which starts production in Buenos Aires in July. Disney Latin America, which has produced the Argentine and two other Latino versions with Argentine indie Pol-ka Prods., is a production partner.
The move into original programming marks a turning point for Univision. New CEO Joe Uva, a former ad man, declared it was a “new day” at Univision, which he promised would be more transparent and accessible to the media. Under previous management led by former chairman-CEO Jerrold Perenchio, executives were threatened with termination if they spoke to the press.
Presentation of Univision’s programming lineup also included its inhouse news and talk shows, led by an all-new “Al Punto,” to be anchored on Sunday mornings by star journo Jorge Ramos.
Meanwhile, NBC Universal-owned Telemundo and its youth-targeted weblet mun2 revealed their new slates at New York’s Radio City Music Hall on Tuesday.
Still a distant second to Univision, Telemundo has been plowing tens of millions of dollars into original production the past four years. Prexy Don Browne stressed the company’s commitment to its content strategy despite some missteps.
“The primetime ratings are not where we thought they’d be,” he conceded. “We stretched the team a little too far a little too fast.”
Telemundo has not renewed its own version of NBC’s gameshow “Deal or No Deal,” which performed below expectations.
“By creating, producing and owning our content, Telemundo is well positioned to serve our viewers across multiple platforms and provide our advertisers with a unique sales proposition,” Browne said.
“In just four years, Telemundo has single-handedly created an entire industry for the future while generating countless opportunities for a Hispanic creative community,” he added.
To this end, Telemundo has extended its bicoastal educational program “Taller Telemundo: Escritores,” designed to train the next generation of telenovela writers, and introduced an actors workshop, “Taller Telemundo: Actores,” under the direction of Oscar nominee Adriana Barraza (“Babel”).
New original telenovelas include “Dona Barbara,” based on a classic novel; Miami-based “Las Brujas de South Beach” (The Witches of South Beach”); and “Idolos de Juventud” (Youth Idols).
Telemundo also hopes to reap some ratings and ad dividends from its role as the official Hispanic broadcaster of the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing next year.