Telemundo Unveils Novela Based on ‘Maid in Manhattan’ for Next Season

'Una Maid En Manhattan'

A weekend variety show with Cristina Saralegui - aka ‘Spanish Oprah’ - is also in the works.

NEW YORK - Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo, part of Comcast’s NBCUniversal, on Tuesday unveiled a slew of new programming for the 2011/2012 season, including a telenovela co-produced with Sony Pictures based on its movie Maid in Manhattan – its first novela adapted from a film.

It also announced a weekend variety show developed, hosted and executive produced by Cristina Saralegui, a former long-time talk show host at competitor Univision who is often referred to as the “Spanish Oprah.” The 12-time Emmy winner left Univision late last year after the final episode of El Show de Cristina, which aired for about 21 years.

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There had been talk that she could take her show to Telemundo who said Tuesday that she will at the end of the year “make her return to Spanish-language television with an all-new show leveraging the Telemundo brand and talent.”

Meanwhile, Telemundo’s younger-skewing cable network mun2 announced a second season - planned for the summer of 2012 - of bilingual racing drama RPM Miami, its first scripted original that has drawn strong ratings since its debut this month. It also unveiled another original production in the form of reality music competition series El Mas Ching*n, which sets out to find the next big Regional Mexican music artist with the help of celebrity judges and challenges that include writing and performing, as well as horseback riding and media pressure tests.

Lauren Zalaznick, who as chairman, entertainment & digital networks and integrated media, NBCUniversal got oversight over the Telemundo Communications Group as part of the Comcast-NBCUniversal deal, on Tuesday lauded the growth outlook for the Spanish-language media group and reiterated that she and NBCUniversal see Telemundo as a key asset with upside.

“It's a stunning opportunity,” Zalaznick said about her new oversight of and the growth outlook for Telemundo after welcoming people with a “buenos dias.” Opening a presentation for reporters that was separate from Tuesday evening’s upfront event at the Natural History Museum, she also said that the Spanish-language broadcaster is “the place where my boss [NBCUniversal CEO] Steve Burke looks” for growth.

Not only is the Telemundo network “outrageously successful and growing,” but young-skewing cable network mun2 is “well-packaged” and is only starting to push into original programming, and there are “tremendous” opportunities in the digital space, Zalaznick said. She lauded NBCUniversal overall for being the only media company to reach more than 90 percent of the U.S. Hispanic population.

Citing the recent census data that showed even stronger-than-expected Hispanic population growth in the U.S., Telemundo executives touted what they dubbed The Shift. “The marketing conversation has shifted, and ‘multicultural is no longer niche,” said Telemundo Communications COO Jackie Hernandez. “It is driving mainstream growth.”

Outgoing Telemundo Communications president Don Browne, whose last day is June 3, said Hispanics account for 16 percent of the U.S. population, but they attract only around four percent of advertising revenue. “We are uniquely positioned to help the advertising community shift their investments to take advantage of this extraordinary growth opportunity,” he said.

The Saralegui variety show will kick off at the end of the year, Telemundo said, calling the 30-year TV veteran “one of the most recognizable and trusted names in the Hispanic community.”

Telemundo’s new novelas for the 2011/2012 season, clips of which were presented by Joshua Mintz, senior executive vp, Telemundo Entertainment, are Una Maid en Manhattan (Maid in Manhattan), Fisico o Quimica (Physical or Chemistry), a drama adapted from a Spanish hit series about the parents, students and teachers at an urban high school, Caidas del Cielo (Fallen from Heaven) about three female bodyguards and Amor de Pelicula (Love…Just Like in the Movies) about a love-struck couple from different backgrounds that shares a passion for movies.

Mintz told The Hollywood Reporter that Telemundo has worked with Sony on projects before, and Maid in Manhattan was “a perfect plot to translate into a telenovela.” Sony wanted to be involved to maintain the integrity of the story and characters, which are known, but continue to intrigue audiences, he said.

Telemundo also announced the launch of a bilingual novelas app for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, with L’Oreal as the launch sponsor.

The broadcast network also said it has reached a new multi-year deal with Billboard, a sister publication of The Hollywood Reporter, to continue the Billboard Latin Music Awards and a new music awards show dedicated to Regional Mexican music – Premios Billboard de la Musica Regional Mexicana.

The Telemundo executives mentioned that the first quarter was the broadcaster’s best ever, with Browne, whose successor has not been named, saying it was just the latest data confirming that the company should continue a focus on original programming, which he had emphasized when he took over six years ago. He said Telemundo now produces 4,000 hours of original programming a year, including 1,000 hours of scripted programming. "The future is bright," Browne concluded.

Hernandez lauded Telemundo’s 32 percent share of the Spanish-language TV audience during week-day primetime, up 12 points year-over-year, and said Telemundo is the fastest-growing network among key demos regardless of language. She also lauded strong digital performance, including more than 14 million video streams in April alone, up 20 percent year-over-year.

Twitter: @georgszalai