Telemundo loads fall sked with originals

Net to increase p'gramming spending, anticipates growth

MIAMI — In a first for U.S. Spanish-lingo television, Telemundo is going mano-a-mano with rival giant Univision by bowing an entire fall weeknight primetime slate of original productions, including shows from music producer Emilio Estefan.

Telemundo, backed by NBC, began to shift away from acquired programming to more original primetime novelas last year, a move unveiled at the 2003 upfront.

It spent about $40 million to that end and will increase that by between $10 million and $20 million this year, Telemundo president and CEO James McNamara said during a Tuesday conference call in advance of the network’s nighttime upfront presentation in New York.

McNamara noted that Mexicans and Mexican-Americans now comprise 62% of the audience, up from 42% a year ago.

McNamara declined to speculate about upfront prospects, but did say he anticipates growth. “We’re feeling good about our position,” vis a vis rival Univision, he said. “We are the broadcaster of the future.”

On tap for 7 p.m. beginning the week of Aug. 30 is romantic comedy soap “Anita no te rajes” (Anita Don’t Give Up), which Telemundo is producing in Miami. “Anita” follows the story of a Mexican immigrant to the U.S.

At 8, Telemundo will bow a co-production with Colombia’s RTI, “La mujer en el espejo” (The Woman in the Mirror) followed at 9 with “our biggest novela ever” — “Gitanas” (Gypsies), starring Televisa vet Saul Lizaso. Telemundo-Argos co-production will be shot 50% on location on a set under construction on Mexico’s Pacific coast.

Primetime will round out at 10 with “Te voy a ensenar a querer” (I’ll Teach You to Love), a “high-octane melodrama” set on a ranch.

Telemundo will work with Estefan on music reality show “Nuevas voces de America” (New Voices of America); musical special “Tribute to the Troops”; and two weekly shows: “Musica Pop” and “Rancho Pachango.”

Also in the works is reality dating show “El Principe Azul” (Prince Charming), in which one man will choose among 20 Latinas. Los Angeles-based Galan Entertainment will produce.

Rounding out the reality slate is “La hacienda,” in which eight men and eight women will rough it on a ranch to be the No. 1 ranchero.

This summer, Telemundo is gearing up to produce 130 hours of Olympic coverage.On the NBC-Universal front, McNamara anticipates being able to tap the Universal film library. Telemundo is in preproduction on a NY-set sudser, “Una Mexicana en Nueva York” (A Mexican Woman in NY), for which the network plans to use the Universal NY backlot in Orlando. Telemundo’s cabler mun2, geared to a young, bilingual audience, is adding reality series “La familia perfecta,” about six young people pursuing their dream to become artists, and “Mekanix,” set in an auto-body shop. It will also bow “The Reel Project,” showcasing the work of Latino filmmakers.

However, Univision still dominates the Spanish-lingo TV market overall. Its other broadcaster, 2-year-old Telefutura, is nipping at Telemundo’s heels outside of primetime, a fact Univision execs are expected to tout during their upfront presentation Wednesday morning.

Telefutura, which reaches 79% of U.S. Hispanics, airs dubbed Hollywood pics during primetime and a mix of talk, novelas, entertainment, and sports during the day.

Among Hispanic adults both 18-49 and 18-34, Telefutura says it was the No. 2 Spanish-lingo net, behind sister net Univision, in early morning, daytime, and weekend daytime during the first quarter of 2004.