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Islas to lather up at Telemundo

Televisa had fought to keep thesp in their stable

MIAMI — With a U.S. federal judge clearing the way, Mexican telenovela leading man Mauricio Islas is coming to Miami to work for NBC-owned U.S. Spanish-lingo net Telemundo.

Mexican media conglom Televisa, the world’s largest producer of sudsers and the chief supplier of primetime programming to Telemundo’s rival Univision, had filed an injunction against Telemundo in U.S. Federal District court to keep Islas in its stable.

Televisa charged that the U.S. network had acted illegally in trying to get Islas to break his exclusive contract, which does not expire until 2007.

At issue was Telemundo’s offer to pay the roughly $900,000 penalty Islas would face from Televisa for ending the contract early.

The court rejected Televisa’s legal maneuver, clearing the way for Islas to begin work on “La Prisoniera,” a Miami-based co-production of Telemundo and its partner RTI.

Telemundo spokeswoman Diana Sousa said Islas would join the soap production immediately.

The company apparently plans to appeal the judge’s decision.

The case is a significant development in the battle for U.S. viewers of Spanish-language TV.

Telemundo, with NBC backing, has been investing heavily in original productions in a bid to woo those audiences away from Univision, which has a commanding lead in market share and depends almost exclusively on rating-grabbing soaps and other programs from Televisa to fill its primetime slots.

As yet, none of Telemundo’s new, original productions has managed to make a major dent in Univision’s ratings.

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