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Televisa signs French deal

More telenovela adaptations planned

Showing the same kind of appetite for international business as the U.S. studios, Mexican TV colossus Televisa is going full throttle in France.

The latest step, announced Tuesday afternoon at Mip TV, is a co-production agreement with Jean-Luc Azoulay’s Gallic shingle JLA on 100 more hours of French Caribbean soap “La Baie des flamboyants,” a redo of Televisa’s telenovela “Codigo postal,” airing on France’s overseas channel RFO.

The new season will air on France’s biggest pubcaster channel, France 2, said Jose Baston, VP of Televisa’s TV division, at Mip.

For Televisa, that deal is just the tip of the iceberg. It is already planning further soaps with JLA in a co-production alliance.

First up, said Baston, is either an adaptation of “Dumb Girls Don’t Go to Heaven,” Televisa’s big new telenovela at Mip, or a redo of the youth-skewed “Alcanzar una estrella.”

Televisa is targeting five markets for strategic partnerships, said Baston: China, France, Indonesia, Russia and India. Company has already supplied its own version of “Ugly Betty” for an adaptation by satcaster Hunan TV.

Televisa was once a pure-play distributor of its own voluminous content outside Mexico; its current expansion doesn’t just turn on distribution.

“We are a content producer and distributor,” said Baston. “But we want to become a bigger international player, not just selling our content but becoming part of the production and ancillary business and playing a large part in advertising buys in local territories.”

Company has already realized these goals in China, where the Hunan TV “Ugly Betty” accord included an ad agency financing deal with Unilever. An Indonesian pact is also in the cards. “We’re signing a letter of intent to start negotiations (with a local company),” Baston said.

Televisa can bring valuable assets to the table — its huge library and its decades-long expertise in audience-driven longform formats. That know-how is now prized by Gallic broadcasters and producers.

Bertrand Villegas of Paris-based audience research company WIT said there’s “escalating competition in France’s traditionally comfy TV market. Soaps are a burgeoning market. But there’s very little tradition or know-how” beyond the likes of Marathon, whose new soap, “Sisterhood,” is airing on France 2.

Azoulay is also well connected in France. “The know-who is sometimes as important as the know-how,” Baston said.

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