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Telemundo Grabs Luis Miguel Drama Series, Setting Up Race With Univision (EXCLUSIVE)

Telemundo has snagged the U.S. rights to the Luis Miguel musical bio-series in the works from MGM TV and Gato Grande Productions.

The Gato Grande project is billed touted as the “officially authorized life story” of the fiercely private singer, who is cooperating with the production, which was announced in November. In January, Univision unveiled a competing effort that is being produced with producer Pedro Torres, who has collaborated with Miguel for the past 30 years on music videos. A Univision spokeswoman said its Miguel project remains in development. Telemundo’s series is targeting a 2018 premiere.

Telemundo’s deal with MGM comes on the heels of the news Tuesday that Miguel was arrested and released on bond in a case involving a dispute with his former manager William Brockhaus, who sued Miguel over an unpaid fee north of $1 million. Miguel was charged in contempt of court for not showing up to scheduled hearings and ordered to pay Brockhaus.

Telemundo president Luis Silberwasser declined to comment on Miguel’s arrest. The network had no hesitation about pursuing the drama series. “It was an easy decision to make, Miguel is a pop icon and we jumped on the chance to tell his story,” he said.

The Miguel series is in keeping with one of Telemundo’s programming objectives of recent years. “We have embraced music as an integral part of our programming strategy, which we started with the Celia Cruz bio-series and later with another one on singer Juan Gabriel,” said Silberwasser.

The musical-driven biographical drama series have been strong performers for Telemundo. The series is another sign of U.S. Spanish-language TV diversifying from its traditional stronghold of telenovelas.

“We are thrilled to add such a legendary music icon to our primetime bio-musicals lineup,” said Cesar Conde, chairman of NBCUniversal International Group and NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises.

“Celia,” based on the salsa queen’s life story, premiered to a cumulative audience of 2.3 million and became Telemundo’s most successful program in its 8 p.m. slot for the past five years. “Hasta que te conoci,” the bio series based on the life of Gabriel, was Telemundo’s top Sunday night program, outperforming Univision on Sunday nights 11 consecutive weeks.

Both Spanish-language networks also have competing shows on the late singer Jenni Rivera, who died in a plane crash in 2012. but Telemundo claims to have the official authorization of the late singer’s estate. Univision debuted its series “Her name is Dolores, the Jenni I knew,” based on a no-holds-barred book by Rivera’s former manager Pete Salgado, on Jan. 15. The Rivera estate has sued Univision in connection with the series. Telemundo has not yet set a premiere date for its Rivera bio-series “Mariposa de Barrio.”

For Miguel, the decision to partner with MGM has been a momentous decision.

“For decades, I have been asked to tell my story. Many have created their own versions, now I have decided to tell the true story of my life.” said Miguel. “I am ready to revisit my past and its many aspects that have sparked so much curiosity and speculation. People will travel alongside with me through a surprising, unexpected and emotional journey that has shaped the artist and the person that I am today.”

Mark Burnett, president of MGM Television Group and Digital, will shepherd the series and lead Gato Grande in its first scripted project aimed at the U.S. Hispanic market.

This is not Burnett’s first foray into Spanish-language programming. Burnett and MGM are in their third season with professional wrestling series “Lucha Underground” for El Rey Network, and Burnett produced the Spanish-language version of the 2014 Biblical feature “Son of God.”

Luis Miguel has become a close personal friend of mine and my wife Roma (Downey). He is a wonderful human being and a bona fide superstar whose authentic story deserves to be told,” said Burnett.

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