Telemundo announces new season slate

Launching cable station with Televisa in August

With record ratings that soared 32% in 18-49 this season, Spanish-language broadcast network Telemundo on Monday announced a batch of new shows for the 2009-10 campaign.

Meanwhile, the network is expanding its relationship with Mexican media company Televisa, confirming that it will launch a jointly owned and Telemundo-branded cable network with Televisa in Mexico in August.

New primetime telenovelas for next season include "Ninos Ricos, Pobres Padres," about the travails of a teen who finds herself suddenly transported to the elite world of Mexico City's ruling class. Also picked up is a drug-trafficking saga called "La Reina del Sur" (The Queen of the South), based on the novel by Arturo Perez-Reverte.

Also on tap for next season is "Perro Amor," about cousins and lovers who toy with one another's lives and loves. Another telenovela, "Rosalinda y Primitivo," focuses on two half-brothers born under wildly different circumstances. "El Clon" features star-crossed lovers from the Latin and Moroccan cultures. "Victorinos" tells the story of three men with the same name born on the same day but with different fates.

Telemundo executives have been talking to advertisers since January about the upcoming fall season and program plans and branded entertainment opportunities within the new shows. But as of Monday, the network had no client deals to announce for the new season.

"There is a lot of interest, and talks with advertisers are ongoing," said Mike Rodriguez, the network's senior vp ad sales.

The recession has impacted spending levels across most ad sectors, and there has been widespread speculation that upfront dollars could be down by double digits.

Whether ad budgets for Spanish-language TV hold up any better "is the $64,000 question," Rodriguez said.

Telemundo president Don Browne said the network's decision several years ago to focus on original programming has helped the company become the No. 2 producer of Spanish-language content in the world behind Televisa, providing it with a robust new aftermarket revenue stream. The new strategy coupled with ratings growth and projected growth in the Hispanic population -- along with comparable gains in spending power within the segment ($900 billion annually and growing to $1.2 trillion by 2012) -- make it "a good time to be in the Hispanic television business," Browne said.

The cable network that the two companies will launch in the summer will be a 50-50 joint venture but will be branded Telemundo Cable and feature content produced by Telemundo. The venture is part of the expanding relationship between the companies outside the U.S., where Telemundo competitor Univision has exclusive access to Televisa content.

Browne said the cable venture will help provide future Telemundo product that airs in the U.S. with some built-in recognition by airing in Mexico, just as Televisa programs airing on Univision here receive by airing in Mexico first.

Separately on Monday, Telemundo-owned mun2, the cable network targeted to young bilingual Latinos, unveiled a new branding campaign (with the tagline "You're On") as well as two programs that will debut in 2010. The new campaign and programs follow word from the network this month that it had surpassed 30 million U.S. household subscribers for the first time.