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Telemundo to lean on NBC

Net to build on soaps, reality

NEW YORK — Telemundo is challenging rival Univision’s dominance of Spanish-lingo TV with more original novelas, more reality shows and some fringe benefits — like the Olympics — derived from its new owner, NBC.

Telemundo continues to rely on Latin sudsers to fill primetime, but the net has been shifting away from straight acquisitions.

“We and NBC feel that to get to the next level, we need to double down on our original productions and co-productions,” Telemundo chief operating officer Alan Sokol told Daily Variety, before the Tuesday evening upfront presentation.

The fall schedule will include several novelas already on air that will extend into September (novelas typically run as strips for four to six months).

Two acquisitions, Colombian novela “Pedro el Escamoso” and Brazil’s “El Clon,” have especially long runs, Sokol said.

Telemundo just launched “Daniela,” its second co-production with Mexican outfit Argos, on May 5, and next month it will bow “Vale Todo,” its first co-production with Brazil’s Globo.

Taking action

Telemundo and Argos are also in pre-production on “Poliladron” (Cop/Thief). Starring Manuela Cardona (“Porque Diablos”), show is a soap spin on “To Catch a Thief” and will feature more action than the typical novela, Sokol said.

With Colombian production partners RTI and Caracol, Telemundo is in pre-production on “La Venganza” (The Revenge), toplined by Gabriela Spanic, who shot to fame in Televisa’s “La Usurpadora.”

In development is an eight-week mininovela/series, “Los Teens,” an original Telemundo production that will chronicle the lives of a group of teenagers, targeted squarely at younger audiences. The series will be set and produced in either Los Angeles or Miami, Sokol said.

Telemundo was pleased with its first shot at reality programming, “Protagonistas de Novela” (Soap Stars), on which aspiring actors lived and competed together with a role in a Telemundo soap as the prize.

Changing tune

With a new spin, Telemundo will launch “Protagonistas de la Musica” (Music Stars), on which aspiring singers will compete against one another, aspiring to a record contract. Sokol said Telemundo also may produce a second “Protagonistas” series.

Telemundo will add two weekly reality series as well: “La Isla de Tentacion” (Temptation Island) with Fox World repurposing its format for the Spanish-lingo net, and “Conquistadores del Fin del Mundo” (Conquerors of the End of the World).

“Conquistadores” will feature five 12-person teams racing around the world and competing in various physical and psychological challenges. Argentina-headquartered PromoFilms, which has produced a number of reality formats around Latin America and handled “Protagonistas,” will produce and cast the teams, likely to represent Mexico, the United States, Colombia, Venezuela and Spain.

The reality shows will air Saturday nights. In addition to targeting younger auds, the programs reinforce Telemundo’s strategy of positioning itself as the innovator of Spanish-lingo TV, Sokol said.

On the NBC front, Sokol noted that most of the Peacock’s fiction programming doesn’t translate to Telemundo, but the Spanish net can access its parent’s resources, with most programming benefits in news, specials and sports.

Telemundo will air the Olympics in Spanish and will have a multiyear deal to air the Golden Globes, Sokol said, noting, “The Olympics are very desirable for advertisers.”

Ad-ing up

NBC ownership will help build the advertiser base in general, he continued. “We have about 100 advertisers. There are huge opportunities to build across platforms and there are whole categories that don’t or barely advertise on Spanish-language TV, such as pharmaceuticals, financial institutions and airlines.”

NBC and Telemundo are working together to acquire theatrical titles under a shared window. Pics so far include “Men in Black,” “Godzilla,” “Perfect Storm,” “Twister” and “Deep Blue Sea.”

Telemundo’s daytime schedule has remained virtually unchanged. News mag “Ocurrio Asi” will wrap at the end of this month and be replaced by “Al Rojo Vivo,” with former Univision news anchor Maria Celeste Arraras.

The rest of the day will be a mix of news, talk-, and court shows. Telemundo may abandon its ayem movie slot in favor of novelas.