Net adding telenovela mobile service

Univision is launching a telenovela mobile and Internet channel on its Univision.com website in a bid to meet the demands of burgeoning Hispanic Internet users.

The service, dubbed Novelas and Series, is slated to kick off in the spring, and will combine inhouse programs with those of third parties Azteca America (Mexico), RCN Television (Colombia) and Dori Media Group (Argentina). However, the site won’t include content from Univision’s main programming supplier, Televisa of Mexico.

In their courtroom tussle last year, Univision stopped Televisa from offering its novelas online in the U.S. but wasn’t granted these rights, either.

Given statistics from the Pew Hispanic Center, it’s no surprise the two went to court. Between 2006 and 2008, Internet use among Hispanic adults in the U.S. rose sharply, from roughly 54% to 64%. Telenovelas are still the most popular shows on Univision, which Nielsen ranks as the fifth highest-rated broadcast network in the U.S.

Univision.com cites the success of its original webnovela “Vidas Cruzadas” (Crossed Lives) as further validation of more such programs.

“Vidas Cruzadas” has generated more than 2.5 million U.S. videostreams to date, and is one of the website’s top two most-watched online properties ever.

As a hub for novela fans, the channel also will feature the latest novela news, celebrity gossip, behind-the-scenes footage and message boards on a dedicated section co-branded with Dori Media Group.

In its continued bid to expand on the Internet, Univision became the first U.S. network to ink a significant full-length programming distribution pact with YouTube late last year.

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