September 03, 2013 1:00pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
NBC Adapting 'Black Widow' in Big Telenovela Push With Electus
NBC is making a big push into the telenovela business.
The network is teaming with Electus to develop three telenovelas with one likely earning a 13-episode series order, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
First up, the network will develop The Black Widow, an adaptation of Venezuelan telenovela La Viuda Joven, with writer Sri Rao (General Hospital: Night Shift).
The drama centers on a mysterious woman who becomes a celebrity after marrying a famous baron. With enormous wealth following the deaths of her last three husbands, she becomes a suspect when her fourth spouse dies.
The original 142-episode series premiered in 2011 and set ratings records on its way to being broadcast in territories around the world, including Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico, Spain, Peru, Canada and in the U.S., where it aired on Telefutura. The series finale had a 79 percent viewer share and 15 rating in Venezuela.
Rao will co-executive produce alongside Electus founder and chairman Ben Silverman and head of creative development Jimmy Fox.
The two additional projects will be announced at a later date. NBC's current plan calls for one of the three projects to air multiple episodes each week -- the same fashion in which typical telenovals are broadcast. Additional scheduling strategies are also under consideration.
"We believe there is huge potential for telenovelas to be adapted and developed for American viewers. These stories clearly have resonance across all cultures and nationalities," NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke said.
Added Electus international president John Pollack: "Already a hit overseas, we expect The Black Widow's captivating and mysterious plot to attract a large audience domestically as well."
Electus will handle worldwide distribution of each series adaptation as well as the original format to places such as Latin America, Spain and Portugal. Venevision International -- who produced the originals series -- will distribute the format in those territories as well as the initial property worldwide.
The project comes nearly two months after Electus inked a first-look deal with telenovela house Caracol Television to develop, pitch and produce its formats in the U.S. The pact marked a first-of-its-kind for the IAC-financed company, which has a first-look at Caracol's scripted and nonscripted fare that includes in Tetas no Hay Paraiso, El Secretario and Pablo Escobar, the Drug Lord.
Black Widow marks Electus' latest push into the telenovela business. In June, Electus teamed with CBS Television Studios to adapt Venezuelan soap Juana La Virgen at The CW. The production company also has ABC's Killer Women -- an adaptation of the Argentine series Mujeres Asesinas from EP Sofia Vergara -- set for midseason.
For his part, Silverman was an EP on the genre's most successful U.S. update, ABC's Ugly Betty, from his time at Reveille Productions. Electus largely focuses on unscripted programming, including NBC's summer series Get Out Alive With Bear Grylls and NBC's upcoming competition series Food Fighters, among others.
At NBC, Black Widow comes as the network continues to look for "event series" and new ways to draw eyeballs in a DVR world. The network will air Ryan Seacrest-hosted Million Second Quiz in September over 12 days and nights in a bid to entice viewers to the live broadcast.