In a bid to tap the burgeoning U.S. Hispanic market, Mexican media giant Televisa inked a TV and film deal with Lionsgate last week, but the pact looks set to jilt both parties’ existing partnerships.
First and foremost, the pact may violate the already contentious programming deal between Televisa and leading U.S. Hispanic web Univision, which expires in 2017.
Meanwhile, Lionsgate’s fledgling joint production venture with former Telemundo topper Jim McNamara’s Panamax Films has been jeopardized.
Televisa is desperate to get out of the programming deal, under which it supplies Univision’s ratings-winning telenovelas, and is going to court over the matter early next year.
At Mipcom last week, Televisa prexy/CEO Emilio Azcarraga Jean said Univision assures his net a strong hold on the Spanish-speaking market. “Yet when these people begin the transition from Spanish to English we lose them. No more.”
Haim Saban, the billionaire whose team of equity investors bought Univision last year, has been pressuring the network to produce more inhouse programming, weaning it off the Mexican powerhouse’s content.
So far, two original programs have been unveiled, a remake of ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” and Jennifer Lopez bio-skein “Como ama una mujer” (How a Woman Loves). Televisa has allegedly banned its talent from participating in any of these shows.
Even more telling, Univision’s programming chief Otto Padron, was in Mipcom for the first time last week to shop for programs and formats. Lionsgate will also have the right to distribute nearly 400 titles from Televisa’s classics library.
“These are titles that Xenon passed on,” says Leigh Savidge, head of Televisa’s longtime exclusive home entertainment distributor in the U.S., Xenon Pictures. “We’ve seen the Televisa people twice in the past month and they continue to acknowledge the good work we’ve done and continue to tell us that we’ll be in the equation going forward.”
Meanwhile, Panamax’s McNamara is unsure about the status of his deal with Lionsgate even though he was privy to the bilateral talks between Lionsgate and Televisa.
“Lionsgate owes me an explanation,” he says. Panamax has two pics in the can, “Dolor y vice versa,” (Pain and Vice Versa), starring telenovela star Barbara Mori, and tentatively titled family drama “All Inclusive.”
“It’s ironic that this would happen just when our film ‘Padre nuestro’ won at Sundance,” he says.
Lionsgate rolled out Panamax’s first Latin pic in April 2006, “La Mujer de mi hermano,” which grossed $2.8 million. “Ladron que roba el ladron” opened in August, earning $4 million.