NBC, USA Developing English-Language Versions of Telemundo Telenovelas (Exclusive)

El Senor de los Cielos - H

El Senor de los Cielos - H

NBC is developing "El Señor de los Cielos," Telemundo's highest-rated novela last season, while USA is adapting the upcoming "Mujer de Acero."

NBC and USA are mining Spanish-language sister network Telemundo to develop English-language versions of two telenovela properties, the companies announced Thursday. NBCUniversal Entertainment has optioned El Senor de los Cielos (The Lord of the Skies), Telemundo's highest-rated novela last season, averaging 2.3 million viewers nightly. And USA is developing the upcoming Mujer de Acero (Woman of Steel).

These are not the only example of cross-company synergy between Telemundo and English-language NBCUni properties. La Voz Kids and Top Chef Estrellas are among Telemundo's top-rated unscripted series. But this is the fist time that NBC and USA -- the top-rated cable entertainment network -- have optioned content from Telemundo novelas and it underscores the format's adaptability in the general market.

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El Senor de los Cielos is the story of Aurelio Casillas (Rafael Amaya), one of the most prominent Mexican drug lords from the 1990s, whose ambition was to become one of the richest and most powerful men in Mexico. The telenovela generated more than 35 million page views on Telemundo.com, spurring a seven-part midseason web companion series -- El Capitulo Secreto (The Secret Episode) -- that bridged the first season cliffhanger with the second season, which began last Tuesday.

“These agreements are further examples of our continuous efforts to work across the NBCUniversal brands to integrate and leverage our resources and expertise,” Joe Uva, chairman, Hispanic Enterprises and Content at NBCUniversal, said in a statement.

Added Jeff Wachtel, president and chief content officer, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment: “The telenovela format has a long history of delivering compelling episodic dramas and storylines that transcend culture and generations. We’re fortunate to have a library of stellar content that we can tap into with Telemundo and are excited at the prospect of extending it across our cable portfolio.”

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The telenovela is a widely popular and enduring genre in the Spanish-language entertainment market. The series can run for just a handful of episodes or more than 100, airing weeknights and typically ending with a cliffhanger to hook audiences night after night. In an increasingly time-shifted universe, telenovelas are still overwhelmingly viewed live.

“Developing this hugely popular telenovela allows us to not only showcase the great plotlines and stories that have captured Spanish-speaking audiences in an English-language adaptation, but it gives us the great opportunity to work hand in hand with our NBCUniversal partners at Telemundo,” said Jennifer Salke, president, NBC Entertainment. “We can’t wait to get started.”