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Univision Books More Televisa and Original Content

La Fuerza del Destino
Courtesy of Univision

The Spanish-language network plans an expanded morning block, a novela starring Blanca Soto and a show searching for the next novela star as it looks to challenge English-language peers with 500 hours of added original fare.

NEW YORK -- Four new telenovelas, including three from Mexican partner Televisa and one featuring newest novela star Blanca Soto, and reality shows searching for the next novela star and the most-gifted child entertainer -- that is some of the new primetime content for the 2011-2012 season for Spanish-language network Univision as it continues to focus on chipping away at the ratings lead of English-language competitors.

Univision, which beat NBC in the 18-49 demo about half the time in the first quarter, also plans a major expansion of its morning programming block from three to five hours, including the addition of a customized version of Televisa morning show Hoy (Today).

During a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Univision Networks president Cesar Conde said that the network is looking to build on its ratings momentum next season and steadily "chip away" at the lead of English-language broadcast networks with new original content that it produces itself - often with partners - and with added Televisa programming.

The network and its parent company Univision Communications are expected to tout an increase in original and Televisa programming for next season during its formal upfront presentation in midtown Manhattan Thursday afternoon. The Spanish-language media giant said Wednesday that it will have about 500 hours of new original productions for primetime and late night, an increase from the current year.

"Last year, our focus was clearly primetime, specifically Sunday night," said Conde. "One of our key focuses this year is going to be our 10 p.m. block. But daytime is obviously an area of focus. We want to strengthen it."

Meanwhile, Univision's smaller sibling broadcast network TeleFutura will next season bring back its successful drama El Capo, about a ruthless and elusive drug lord, for a second season and launch a late night show for men dubbed Noche de Perros (Guys' Night Out), among other things. And the company's cable network Galavision will debut a weekend culinary battle reality series from Televisa called Prime Gourmet - El Reto (Prime Gourmet - The Challenge).

Univision Communications will on Thursday also update media buyers on three new cable networks that it plans to launch, which will give it additional revenue from carriage fees. Executives said the name of the soccer-heavy sports channel is still expected to be Univision Deportes, a novela network will be called Univision TLNovelas, and a news network is expected to get the name Univision 24/7. The three networks are expected to be launched over the next 18 months, with the novela channel being eyed for a launch as early as later this year.

As Telemundo did on Tuesday, Univision's upfront event is also expected to reiterate the strong Hispanic population growth highlighted in the latest census and its ratings momentum. Univision on Wednesday touted its audience trends compared with English-language broadcast networks, saying the network is up 8 percent in the 18-49 demo from last season, compared with declines for ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC.

"There is a new American reality, and businesses looking to deliver growth need to establish and maintain a relationship with the fastest-growing consumer segment in our nation," said Univision Communications executive vp and COO Randy Falco, who is going into his first upfront for Univision, which he joined earlier this year.

"Recognizing the power of the burgeoning Hispanic consumer base, Univision is investing in expanding our content across all media platforms with both traditional distributors as well as online and mobile video providers," said Conde.

The expanded partnership with Televisa, which recently took a stake in Univision, coupled with the investment in originals "creates unprecedented branding and integration opportunities for marketers looking to connect with an incredibly valuable audience,” emphasized David Lawenda, president of advertising sales and marketing for Univision Communications.

He told reporters that 2011 will set a new benchmark for integrations after a record in 2010. He predicted a 30 percent rise in integrations at Univision, when looking at hours of programming with integration, and a 50 percent jump at TeleFutura and Galavision.

To boost Univision's morning lineup, Hoy, a lifestyle magazine with tips on cooking, health and home projects, as well as news and celebrity guests, will air at 10:30 a.m. ET/PT and follow popular 7-10 a.m. morning show Despierta America, which will be lengthened by 30 minutes. That will extend Univision's overall morning block from three to five hours. Said Conde: "We wanted to have more of a block to build our ratings momentum throughout the day." Or as Univision put it in a statement: the show "will keep viewers entertained all the way to lunch."

The Univision network's new reality shows for the coming TV season are called Protagonistas (Novela Stars) and Pequenos Gigantes (Little Giants). The former will air weekdays in primetime and give aspiring actors, locked into a house, a chance to prove that they can win viewers' hearts as they face challenges and eliminations as novela stars stop by to visit. The latter, set for Sunday primetime, is a Televisa show featuring 28 children in a talent competition and seven judges.

Weekday primetime series El Equipo, about four federal officers who risk their lives for others, also comes from Televisa.

Univision's three new Televisa novelas are Dos Hogares (Two Homes) about a woman torn between her former love, whom she believed dead, but who is alive and suffering from memory loss, and her new lover (featuring former singer Anahi and Carlos Ponce); La Fuerza del Destino (The Power of Destiny) about a man who returns to his Mexican hometown after being framed for murder; and Una Familia Con Suerte (A Fortunate Family) about a socialite with an incurable disease who makes a humble man who saves her from suicide the president of her company -- shocking her family and greedy relatives.

Another novela,Talisman, from Univision Studios and Venevision, will star Blanca Soto, who had her first novela lead in the network's recently ended hit Eva Luna, as a woman who must chose between her big love whom she thought dead and her new love. "The novela genre is a force of nature," Conde told reporters, highlighting that Hispanic stars aspire not so much to end up in Hollywood, but on a highly rated novela. And the genre allows Spanish-language networks to have their big stars on the air every night, he added.

Univision on Wednesday also announced a special called Premios Univision (Univision Awards), a one-hour awards gala that will recognize people who have helped improve the life of Hispanics in the U.S., and two documentaries by a new Univision Documentaries unit.

Below are additional 2011-2012 program plans for TeleFutura and Galavision.

TeleFutura:

MIA: A drama set in Miami Beach that features a fearless undercover cop who must choose between two men -- one good, one evil.

La Mariposa (The Butterfly): A drama about a woman who launders money for drug lords, but falls for the special agent whose mission is to bring her in.

Galavision:

Kdabra: A series about the adventures of a mysterious 17-year-old with real and supernatural elements.

Un Mundo Aparte (Worlds Apart): A documentary about what the network calls "the longest road trip around the world" with a team of explorers - two years, 50 countries, one vehicle.
 

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai