Univision, Telemundo Tout Programming Plans, Diversification Initiatives and Innovations

In dueling pre-upfront press conferences Thursday, Spanish-language media rivals Univision and Telemundo revealed a similar objective: to explore a more diversified, multi-generational, multi-platform programming aimed at a fast-evolving U.S. Hispanic market.

The stakes for both networks are high. The U.S. Hispanic population represents $1.3 trillion in spending power, which is projected to grow to $1.9 trillion by 2022.

Univision, long dependent on Mexican media giant Televisa to provide its programming, has been playing catch up with NBCUniversal-owned Telemundo, which has been producing its own shows for years. To streamline the production of content across Televisa and Univision, Isaac Lee was named chief content officer of both companies in January 2017.

Among Univision-Televisa’s joint initiatives to ramp up and diversify programming on both networks is what is billed as the first global Spanish-language TV pilot season, which resulted in more than 100 submissions from all over the world.

According to Patricio Wills, head of Televisa Studios, they have received some 100 submissions of which 10 were shortlisted and three to four will be greenlit.

“In order to produce more relevant content for the U.S. Hispanic market as well as Latin America and the world, we are also working with content creators from the worlds of film and advertising,” said Wills, who opted to speak in Spanish.

New titles going into production include “Brujas Al Amanecer” (“Witches at Dawn”), a supernatural teen dramedy and “Las Benditas” (“The Blessed”), an action-packed drama about a group of widows bent on revenge.

“We realize our audience is sophisticated, diverse and multi-generational,” said Jessica Rodriguez, president & chief operating officer of UCI Networks. “We will entertain with in-culture content that incorporates the elements we know our audience loves while enabling their discovery of non-traditional genres such as sword-and-sandal and supernatural.” Rodriguez who listed six other genres in its pipeline: reality, melodrama, music, dramedies, action drama and crime drama.

Univision’s popular series “Jesus” is the latest among a string of Bible-inspired shows from Brazil’s TV Record that have been ratings hits in Brazil and for Univision. Starting in 2017, Univision broke from the company’s decades-old tradition of only programming Televisa shows during primetime with TV Record’s “Jose de Egipto” (“Joseph of Egypt”).

The company is also planning more co-productions with Netflix via its LA-based premium content division, Story House Entertainment. The partnership has already yielded ratings hit “El Chapo” and the upcoming “Tijuana.”

Univision’s 2018-2019 “experiential” upfront is taking place on May 14-15 at Spring Studios in New York City. 

Meanwhile, Telemundo is planning a reboot of “Ugly Betty,” “Betty in NY,” and launching new premium series “The Inmate” and “Falco.” The move dovetails with the company’s mandate to innovate, bring new genres to the table and expand its offering, said Luis Silberwasser, president of Telemundo Networks.

Other highlights of its upcoming programming include “La Voz,” a Spanish-language version of NBC’s hit music competition, “The Voice” with Luis Fonsi of “Despacito” fame to serve as its coach. Co-produced by Telemundo and Talpa, it has been taped at Telemundo’s new state-of-the-art Telemundo Center in Florida.

Set to be a game changer is Telemundo’s upcoming exclusive Spanish-language coverage of the FIFA World Cup in Moscow this summer (June 14-July 15). The company is deploying 500 employees to cover the event in Russia. The sports event held every four years was a ratings juggernaut for Univision, which lost its broadcasting rights to the soccer tourney to Telemundo.

Telemundo is also launching a new season of its worldwide hit series “La Reina del Sur 2 “(“The Queen of the South 2”) with actress Kate del Castillo reprising her role as drug trafficking queen, Teresa Mendoza.

The company has also announced a new pact with Hulu that will bring 3,000 hours of Telemundo programming to the streaming service.

Telemundo will hold its upfront in conjunction with NBCUniversal’s company-wide programming presentation on Monday at Radio City Music Hall. Telemundo will also host an evening event for advertising clients and business partners at the Park Avenue Armory Conservancy in New York City, featuring a private concert with global Reggaeton star J Balvin.

(Pictured: Telemundo’s Don Francisco and Univision’s “El Chapo”)

(Correction: Telemundo is not planning any new shows in English, as stated in an earlier version of this story.)

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