Univision upfont has 'heart'

Sets Lopez mini, Latin 'Housewives'

NEW YORK -- Univision made a spirited case to advertisers during its upfront presentation Wednesday, touting several new scripted projects, including the upcoming miniseries from pop singer/actress Jennifer Lopez, the Spanish-language version of "Desperate Housewives" and a number of new primetime telenovelas.

Lopez was on hand to discuss the five-part miniseries "Como Ama una Mujer," which she created and will executive produce. She said that the mini, which is based on her new Spanish-language CD, is inspired by real events and will track a woman's love and happiness in the light of Hollywood.

Lopez said that when she had the idea for the miniseries she knew Univision was the place to go -- and she successfully pitched it. The mini will debut in a 10 p.m. slot at an unspecified date during the new season.

Lopez's project was one of several spotlighted Wednesday by Univision during its upfront, which also was attended by Lopez's husband, Marc Anthony (who also closed the show with a performance); several Univision's stars; and "Team Univision," a contingent of viewers who won the privilege to be onstage by virtue of creating videos of the role Univision had in their lives.

"Our viewers heart us," said Univision's newly installed CEO Joe Uva, who said in a news conference after the upfront that his goals were to enhance the strong connection between the company and its viewers, build digital offerings and obtain $1 per subscriber for the Univision signal by the time the bulk of its retransmission-consent deals start coming up for renewal.

"We believe the value of these rights is $1 per subscriber," said Uva, who acknowledged it would be a tough negotiation but one well worth it to the company that recently was acquired by a private-equity group. He noted that Univision is so entrenched in its communities that the local-station switchboards are flooded with calls asking questions about the best schools and where to vote.

"I don't know about you, but the only times I ever called a broadcast network were to complain about commercial clutter or a wardrobe malfunction," Uva said.

Among the primetime novellas being rolled out by Univision for the new season are "Pasion," a love story set in the era of ocean-going pirates; "Muchachitas Como Tu," about the challenges teenage girls find growing up; "Amar sin Limites," a story that poses questions about what people will do for love; and "Yo Amo a Juan Querendon," about a kindhearted man who isn't rich or handsome but is a Don Juan just the same.

Univision president and COO Ray Rodriguez added a few more details about another big project with high expectations: the Spanish-language version of "Desperate Housewives," called "Amas de Casa Desesperadas," being produced by Disney-ABC International Television Latin America and Univision. It will be made in Argentina, Rodriguez said, but appeal to Hispanic Americans. Casting is under way.

In the fall, Univision also will launch a Sunday-morning public affairs show, "Al Punto," which will be hosted by "Noticiero Univision" co-anchor Jorge Ramos and feature the week's top stories and interviews with newsmakers.

Univision executives declined to discuss legal action with Televisa, its long-standing production partner.

The company did say that that its executive offices have left Los Angeles for New York, where Uva is based and where other top executives will be based. Uva also has an office in Miami, where Rodriguez is based.

Rodriguez said that Los Angeles would remain an important center for the company, where the stations group is headquartered. Uva confirmed that "soon" the music division would be sold as well as other unspecified noncore assets.
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