A burgeoning market

Univision to launch new network; Telemundo partners with production companies

Positively ecstatic over the recent census reports showing Hispanics' rapid gains in the U.S population, Spanish language networks Univision and Telemundo spent significant portions of their upfront events last week explaining—with much fervor—that Latin boom to advertisers.

Univision, which dominates the Spanish-language television market, will introduce a new network in January 2002 and spent its upfront last week pushing that new venture. Helmed by Jorge Delgado, former general manager for Univision's KUVS(TV), the yet-to-be-named startup is expected to reach 80% of Hispanic households throughout the U.S.—a feat made possible through Univision's acquisition of 17 full-powered stations from USA Broadcasting last December and the company's purchase of several more stations since then.

Univision's honchos, citing the wet ink still drying on the deal, are keeping mum on specific programming other than to say its target audience will be Hispanics who now are heavy watchers of English-language television. But Mario Rodriguez, Univision's president of entertainment, made it clear that the new channel will not be a recycling ground for Univision programs. "This will be a first-run originals broadcast network," he said. " The startup "will compete with Univision for eyeballs."

With the additional network an obvious priority, Univision will add only a few new programs—a talk show titled Marta Susana, five novelas, a variety show and a weekly comedy—to their lineup.

Telemundo, which has always struggled to get out of its low-ratings streak, got on the board last season with the hugely popular telenovela, Betty La Fea and its Miami-transplanted talk show, Laura en América.

Now Telemundo has brokered partnerships with key Latin-American television production companies—namely Mexico's Argos Television, Brazil's TV Globo and Colombia's Caracol TV and RTI—to help them produce more and better quality novelas. Nine new ones will hit the air, with the first Cara o Cruz to begin its run this Monday night.

Other novelas including the Bodyguard-inspired Pobre Pablo, the Tarzanian Uga-Uga and Puerto de los Milagros, a magic- and miracles-plotted drama, will debut throughout the fall.

As novelas hold down a chunk of their weeknight programming, Telemundo seeks to capture a younger audience with Saturday- and Sunday-morning cartoons, including Jackie Chan Adventures and Men in Black.

The network will also premiere a reality program a la Big Brother. Protagonistas will feature six men and six women living together and facing elimination with the winner to star in a Telemundo-produced novela.