NBC Uni TV alters name, focus

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NBC Universal Television Studio is changing its name, the company said Thursday, in a bid to embrace a more cross-platform orientation.

In addition, the studio announced its first project under the new team of co-chairmen Ben Silverman and Marc Graboff: an English-language adaptation of the controversial hit Colombian telenovela "Sin Tetas No Hay Paraiso," which translates as "Without Breasts There Is No Paradise."

The studio now will be called Universal Media Studios, a change Silverman said better reflects its mission.

"This name change reflects our TV studio's natural evolution as digital distribution expands and more platforms need premier ideas and programming," Silverman said.

UMS president Katherine Pope cited the hit series "Heroes" as an example, noting the breadth of digital offshoots that have been spawned. "Given the amount of places and products and everything that is connected to that program, it's not just about producing a TV show," she said. "It's just about having the name expand to all the different kinds of things we do."

Pope also noted that there still might be restructuring changes within the studio to accommodate its emphasis on digital endeavors. "You might see adjustments here and there," she said, declining to address specifics. "We're all trying to figure out the best way to coordinate our efforts."

Notable in the name change is the absence of "NBC" in the title, a decision predicated on the diversity of outlets the studio services. "We don't just produce for NBC but USA, Sci Fi Channel, Fox and shows all over the world," Pope said.

The digital orientation of the studio is true to form for Silverman, who came to NBC in May with a mandate for cross-platform production. Silverman's imprint also is evident with "Paraiso," which boasts an overseas heritage common among some of the biggest hits he delivered at Reveille, including the U.K. import "The Office" at NBC and the Latin American sensation "Betty La Fea," which he delivered to ABC as "Ugly Betty."

"Paraiso" also is a Latin American hit, setting a ratings record last year in Colombia. But the series has been controversial there, featuring the story of a prostitute who wants to get breast implants as a means of entering the Colombian drug world. "Paraiso" has been criticized in that country for glorifying drug trafficking and perpetuating body-image problems among women.

But Pope said it is too early to worry about controversy here. "We haven't discussed creatively how we're going to attack that," she said, stressing that a lot can change at this stage in the development process. "Just as Silvio Horta developed 'Ugly Betty,' we'll bring in a writer who brings a point of view."

As part of the deal with Colombian production company Canal Caracol, NBC Universal's Telemundo Network also will produce its own Spanish-language version of "Paraiso."

Still to be mapped out is how coordinated efforts will be between NBC and Telemundo for separate versions of the series. With relatively few synergies struck between the divisions since Telemundo was acquired in 2002, Pope is looking forward to figuring out how they will work together.

"We've been trying to do more with Telemundo for some time," she said. "This is a perfect test case as to how we'll pool our efforts and work together."

Pope said that no timetable has been set as to when the project will reach the air. Also uncertain is whether the series will be rendered as a nightly episodic in the traditional telenovela format or converted to the weekly format typical in the U.S., as Silverman did with "Betty."

Pope mentioned there is the possibility that the two productions could share some key talent.

WMA packaged "Paraiso."
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