Star system grows

Televisa lends thesps to Univision co-prod'n

MEXICO CITY — In its growing quest to capture U.S. auds, Mexico’s largest net, Televisa, has begun exporting its stars.

Veronica Castro and Niurka Marcos, both under contract to Televisa, will join Univision, the leading U.S.-based Spanish-language broadcaster later this year.

Castro will host “Viva Vero,” a weekly variety show that Univision will co-produce with Televisa and Venezuela-based Venevision. Niurka, known by her first name, will co-star with husband Bobby Larios in a reality show similar to MTV’s “Newlyweds.”

Televisa is a minority owner of Univision and has made no secret of its long-term plans to bid for the net. This spring, Televisa moved its top-level executive operations center to Miami, and chairman Emilio Azcarraga married a woman with a U.S. passport, moved to south Florida and applied for U.S. citizenship.

Televisa provides most of Univision’s content, shipping telenovelas, news and information shows produced in Mexico across the border.

But in the past six months, Televisa has begun producing content specifically for the Hispanic audience in the U.S., particularly telenovelas.

By loaning two of its stars to a co-production aimed at Stateside auds, Televisa appears to be taking a more aggressive, higher-risk step towards increasing its reach.

Traditionally, Televisa and rival TV Azteca have jealously guarded their thesps, signing them to exclusive contracts.

Earlier this year, Televisa found itself in a cross-border dispute when thesp Mauricio Islas jumped ship, leaving the Mexico City net for Univision rival Telemundo, a move upheld by a U.S. judge.

For Televisa, no star shines brighter at the moment than Castro. The leading star of Mexican telenovelas in the 1980s such as “Cuna de lobos” (Den of Wolves), Castro reappeared on the scene last year to host “Big Brother VIP.”

She is credited with the show’s booming success and just last week began hosting skein’s third go-round.

Rumors about her return to telenovelas abounded for months until the Univision news broke.

Niurka, a model and singer from Cuba, is one of the contestants on “Big Brother VIP 3.” She starred in “Aventurera,” a Mexico City live-theater show, but was obligated by her Televisa contract to take part in “Big Brother.”