Disney, Univision team on telenovela

Companies pact to target U.S. Hispanic auds

The Mouse House is teaming up with Univision to make a primetime telenovela for U.S. Hispanic auds, an unusual deal for both companies albeit not their first collaboration.

In 2007, Disney and Univision co-produced a Spanish-language remake of ABC hit “Desperate Housewives” as part of the Mouse House’s initiative to re-version its skeins for various Latin America markets. Result was a mixed bag with only one season produced.

Both companies declined to comment on the deal.

A source said the telenovela is likely to be a remake of a Venezuelan telenovela.

“Disney has the leverage to secure the best producers, directors and talent to produce soaps as a result of their cross-platform strengths,” said Miami-based media advisor, Julio Rumbaut. “What remains to be seen is Disney’s and Univision’s ability to produce the soap opera genre on a mass and efficient basis (as well as) satisfy the demand and tastes of U.S. Spanish television viewers,” he added.

Rival Telemundo has been producing telenovelas for several years. While it has yet to knock Univision off its top perch, the NBC-U unit has been steadily chipping away at Univision’s ratings lead.

Telemundo is the world’s second largest provider of Spanish-language content after Mexican giant Televisa, which provides much of Univision’s content.

Univision launched TV shingle Univision Studios this year and tapped Spanish TV vet Luis Fernandez to head it. Fernandez’ role expanded this month when he was given the new position of entertainment prexy for Univision Network.

The programming supply pact with Televisa expires in 2017 and Univision’s not taking it for granted that it will be renewed. Given the bad blood between both companies in the past, such an outcome would not be surprising.

Televisa and Univision went to court in 2009 over a long-simmering royalties dispute. Televisa made it clear then that it wanted to extricate itself from the programming pact. Dispute was settled out of court just as Televisa chairman CEO Emilio Azcarraga was due to take the stand.

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