Televisa boosting exports with original programs

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MEXICO CITY -- Mexican network Televisa is revamping its programming lineup with several high-quality original productions as part of an effort to boost exports to the U.S. Hispanic market.

The new line of productions, dubbed "Original Series, Made in Mexico," includes four serials set to bow later this month on Televisa's Canal 5 network. The programs were filmed on high-def and 16mm formats.

Mexico's top broadcaster also is developing three other series slated to air on pay TV systems later this year.

Televisa, known throughout the world for its steamy telenovelas, is looking to offer new content with a production standard that can measure up to popular U.S. series. The Mexican media giant, which exports programming to Univision, believes the concept of producing Spanish-language series with cinematographic visual imagery will appeal strongly to Latino viewers, especially to those who have grown accustomed to watching top-notch U.S. programs.

Jose Baston, Televisa's corporate vp of television, on Wednesday told reporters that Sony, HBO and Warner Bros. have expressed interest in the television series.

The business model for the latest programs will allow Televisa to create synergies with various platforms, including pay TV, Internet, home video and magazines.

Baston acknowledged that the costly series imply higher production costs for Televisa, but declined to offer details.

Among the programs set to bow this month in Mexico are "M13DOS," a mystery/horror series consisting of 13 half-hour episodes. Alejandro Lozano, who is set to helm Universal's drag-racing film "Live Bet," directed one of the episodes.

Two of the other programs look a lot like HBO series. "Sexo y Otros Secretos" comes across as a Mexican "Sex and the City," while "Y Ahora...Que Hago?," starring Mexican comedian Adal Ramones, resembles "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

The new programming offers up more diversity, however, it will not replace the network's successful telenovelas.

"The telenovela is (Televisa's) most important product and it will continue to be for many years," Baston said.

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