Telemundo upfront touts originals

Net expands primetime, adds "Grey's Anatomy" adaptation

NEW YORK -- Telemundo is expanding its primetime from three to four hours as of next week with the help of the 7 p.m. launch of "A Corazon Abierto" ("With an Open Heart"), a Spanish version of "Grey's Anatomy."

Telemundo executives announced the move at their upfront press presentation here Thursday that highlighted the Spanish-language network's commitment to original content production.
Based on Shonda Rhimes' drama hit "Grey's Anatomy," "Corazon" is a Spanish-language adaptation written by Fernando Gaitan (creator of "Ugly Betty" blueprint "Betty la Fea") and produced by Disney with well-known Colombian talent.

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For the fall, the NBC Universal network unveiled a slew of new telenovelas, including comedic love novela "Casanova Sin Amor," love/ghost story "El Fantasma De Elena" (Helena's Ghost) and book adaptation "La Reina del Sur" (Queen of the South).

The network also unveiled plans to stream its telenovelas with English subtitles online (it has already streamed them without subtitles for about a year) to expand their reach and marry each hour of primetime content with social media viewing experiences to link viewers with anchors, creators, sports stars and talent.

And it said it is reversing a previous move to centralize news coverage to instead re-invest in localism.

Meanwhile, younger-skewing Mun2 will launch reality show "Jenni Rivera presents Chiquis & Raq-C." Co-produced with Mexican music star Jenni Rivera, it features two young, strong Latino women -- Rivera's oldest daughter who runs Rivera's business and her best friend and radio DJ.

"Original content is the big differentiator between us and anybody in our space," said Telemundo president Don Browne at a breakfast event at The Modern restaurant at the Museum of Modern Art.

He recounted how five years ago he decided to double down on original content after being named president of Telemundo.

More than 50 novelas later, the company is the second-largest content provider in its space and even has Telemundo-branded content running on Televisa in Mexico, he said.

Higher ratings and especially ratings consistency, which had eluded the network before, have been key benefits. Plus, the original content can be repurposed in digital forms and has been "the fuel that has driven Mun2," Browne said.

Discussing the new fall novelas, Adriana Ibanez, executive vp of programming, highlighted that "El Fantasma De Elena" comes from the Hitchcock of Spanish-language TV, Humberto "Kico" Olivieri, while "Casanova" comes from writer Gustavo Bolivar, the creator of the best-performing Telemundo novela ever. The latter show is about a rich man who owns a top-rated TV network and has many women, but one day realizes they only love him for his status.

Meanwhile, "Reina" is based on the best-selling book by Arturo Perez-Reverte and features Mexican star Kate del Castillo ("Weeds") in her Telemundo debut as an innocent young woman who becomes a top player in the world of narcotics trafficking who looks to avenge the death of her lover.

Here some other highlights from the Telemundo upfront breakfast presentation:

* Asked about Telemundo's programming strategy during this summer's soccer World Cup on competitor Univision, executives said Telemundo's news shows and social media offerings will cover the Cup.

* The network used the slogan "The New Now" to highlight not only the changing demographics of the U.S. population as the latest census takes place this year, but also advertisers' need to reach consumers whenever and wherever they want content.

COO Jacqueline Hernandez said Telemundo's incorporation of clients in the program development process gives marketers "the most customized and integrated solutions to directly target their desired consumers."

* Telenovela talent tours have been so successful that Telemundo has decided to launch "Eventos Telemundo" to allow for more interactions between cast members and fans in what a video described as the ultimate 360 degree experience. Hernandez said the network is looking for category-exclusive ad partners for the events.

* Michael Rodriguez, senior vp, sales, touted that Telemundo's 18-49 viewership is "stronger than it has ever been" thanks to popular content, even though Spanish-language immigration peaked in 2006 at 3.4 million.

He said that Telemundo has remained the number 2 Spanish-language network in prime time in the 18-49 and 18-34 demos for the year-to-date period. Competitor Univision's Telefutura network has touted its strong ratings position year-to-date among all viewers.

Executives also lauded Mun2's momentum, citing its 11 share in 2008, which rose to 13 in 2009 and 14 this year.

Telemundo COO Jackie Hernandez said the Mun2 success comes from the network's focus on YLAs, young Latino Americans who are passionate about such things as music, fashion/style, reality and sports.

* Management also highlighted that Telemundo's and Spanish-language viewers generally are more engaged, a key selling point to advertisers.

For example, they cited increased brand opinion for custom content partners compared with English TV, which in the auto category amounts to +111%, they said.

* Executives also highlighted how tech savvy Hispanics are. Close to 28 million U.S. Hispanics are on the Internet, with 80% on broadband. And Hispanics are four times as likely to have a smartphone that allows them to watch video.

* Addressing news strategy, Browne said Telemundo is re-investing into localism and focusing on a 24/7 multi-platform approach, including the recruitment of more multi-media journalists.

"We have an enormous commitment to news," he said, adding that the network even uses novelas to address critical health, immigration and other social issues. "If you're relevant...they'll come back," he explained the effect on viewers.
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