‘Top Chef Mexico,’ VR and Sports on Deck For Telemundo, NBC Universo

Telemundo and NBC Universo are loading up on new shows that are a big departure for Spanish-language television, from scripted drama series to shows with second-screen apps and virtual reality woven into the storytelling.

Sports also is a big priority for NBCU’s Spanish-language networks now that it has nabbed the Spanish-language rights to the next three World Cup championships. NBC Sports and Olympics president Mark Lazarus was on hand to announce the launch of NBC Deportes as a unit within NBC Sports to produce Spanish-language programming, just in time for next year’s summer Olympics in Rio.

At the Tuesday evening upfront at Frederick P. Rose Hall, NBCUniversal execs emphasized the high level of mobile, smartphone and social media usage among young U.S. Hispanics in their pitch to advertisers.

Joe Uva, NBCU’s chairman of Hispanic Enterprises and Content, made mention of the fact that President Bill Clinton appeared earlier in the day at the upfront for rival Univision Communications. Noting that Clinton discussed the growing clout and influence of the Hispanic population, Uva said: “We couldn’t agree more.”

Telemundo president Luis Silberwasser emphasized the company’s focus on targeting U.S.-born Hispanics rather than importing shows from Latin America.  “We want a network that gets it and gets us,” Silberwasser said.

Telemundo’s push includes the “Super Series” that are a departure from the telenovela format in that they are designed to return for multiple seasons. Telemundo has two such series on the air now — “El Señor de Los Cielos” and “Señora Acero” — and a third on the way.

Telemundo is also developing a series of biopics on Latin American musical icons, starting with Cuban singer Celia Cruz. Another big initiative is the launch next season of a Saturday night variety show, “La Sopresa de tu Vida” (The Surprise of Your Life) to take advantage of the opening on the night now that Univision’s long-running “Sabado Gigante” is coming to an end in September.

Meanwhile, NBC Universo is borrowing a franchise from sibling cabler Bravo in mounting “Top Chef Mexico,” featuring chef contestants from Mexico and the U.S. The show follows Telemundo’s success in adapting NBC’s “The Voice” into a kid-focused competition, “La Voz Kids.”

Among digital initiatives, exec talked up the launch of a second-screen app for series “Double Accion” which is designed to be watched concurrently with the linear telecast. There’s also an effort to bring VR to programming through what was briefly described as a “simple, brandable attachment” to a smartphone.

(Pictured: NBCUniversal’s Joe Uva with “Sopresa” hosts Angelica Vale and Raul Gonzalez)

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