Pair to develop English-lingo programs from library titles

Lionsgate and Mexican media conglom Televisa are expanding their longstanding partnership onto the small screen. New pact to create English-language content for U.S. broadcast and cable networks builds on the companies’ joint film venture, Pantelion Films, launched in 2010.

Deal encompasses English-lingo format adaptations of TV content from Televisa’s extensive library, including its popular telenovelas, and the development of scripted and unscripted English-language original programming. Companies have set up a hefty development fund to enable them to attract showrunners and talent for an average output of six to eight projects a year. They are close to announcing the names of execs who will oversee the new venture.

Among the projects in the pipeline are the sitcom spinoff of Pantelion’s debut pic, “From Prada to Nada;” “Badlands,” a scripted drama at ABC based on Televisa hit telenovela “Soy tu Duena;” Televisa’s drama skein “Terminales” for ABC Family and “Teresa,” based on another Televisa telenovela.

Deal was unveiled Tuesday at NATPE by Lionsgate co-chairman and CEO Jon Feltheimer and Televisa prexy and CEO Emilio Azcarraga. Both execs emphasized that the venture would focus on programming with “a Latin feel and U.S. appeal.”

Feltheimer’s interest in the U.S. Hispanic market dates back from 1997 when he was head of Columbia TriStar TV Group and orchestrated Sony’s purchase of Telemundo, now owned by Comcast’s NBCUniversal. Jim McNamara, now head of Pantelion, ran Telemundo for Feltheimer.

Pantelion Films is set to release Will Ferrell Spanish-lingo comedy “Casa de mi Padre” in March and Eva Mendes-toplined “Girl in Progress” in April.

Partners have also created the Lionsgate and Televisa Fund For Student Support at the USC School of Cinematic Arts to “support, encourage and educate new voices” by providing assistance to minority students studying screenwriting as well as TV and film production at USC.

Fund will include tuition assistance and an internship opportunity at Pantelion Films to two USC graduate students a year for the next three years.

It’s been a busy NATPE for Televisa which recently unveiled a first look co production pact with Sony Pictures Television for scripted and telenovela formats. Under the terms of the deal, Televisa will get a first look at SPT scripted formats for potential co production in Spain while SPT will tap Televisa’s scripted and unscripted formats for potential co production worldwide, excluding the U.S. and Latin America.

Televisa is a key shareholder in leading U.S. Hispanic web Univision which fills the bulk of its programming with Televisa TV content. Univision has just announced plans to air all its primetime telenovelas with English closed captioning, starting Jan. 30.

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