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Mexico: Azteca rolling in d’oh

Mipcom 2005: Hot show

MEXICO CITY — While “The Simpsons” might be slowing down a bit in the States, Homer and the gang have been the evening anchor on TV Azteca’s Channel 7, practically since the net began in the early 1990s.

Matt Groening’s dysfunctional toon family consistently draws up to 12% of 15-30-years-olds during its 8-to-9 slot of back-to-back episodes every weeknight, according to TV Azteca’s acquisitions VP Pedro Lascurain. During the last year, it has occasionally taken 11% of total audience share.

“There is nothing else like it on TV in Mexico. It’s the irreverence,” says Lascurain. “Here you can see a dad drinking beer in front of his kids.”

In some ways, TV Azteca has tried to be like Fox. Excluding any similarities between the companies’ iconoclast owners, both nets have pushed the envelope of traditional family entertainment in their markets

Televisa originally had the rights to the show, but it kept early episodes in the vault, afraid that the biting satire was inappropriate for children.

Televisa topper Emilio Azcarraga Milmo’s reluctance to broadcast the show led Fox to make a new deal with TV Azteca. “They practically gave it to us. They just wanted it to be seen,” Lascurain says.

Now, more than a decade later, “The Simpsons” are still Mexico’s favorite American family, and Televisa is counterprogramming another American show, “Malcolm in the Middle,” against it on Channel 5.

The U.S. family of actors who voice the show have had labor disputes, arguing they deserve a large share of the hugely successful franchise and winning contracts worth thousands of dollars.

The Mexican voicers, who earn just $56 per episode, have had their own struggle — but not about money. Most of the local actors who voice key parts were replaced earlier this year after the studio that dubs “The Simpsons” for Fox into Spanish refused to sign the standard contract under the Mexican actors’ union.

TV Azteca will soon start airing the newly voiced shows, but Lascurain says he didn’t expect it to affect ratings.

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