Twentieth's Telenovela Targeted for Summer


The telenovela market could get very crowded this summer.

Twentieth Television Monday said it is fast-tracking its first-run syndicated Desire strip for a summer launch.

The announcement comes on the heels of executives from CBS, NBC and ABC outlining potential plans for similar projects to critics at the Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles.

Twentieth says Desire, which has been cleared in 65% of the country, will launch in June.

Telenovelas, which have scored for Spanish-language networks like Univision, are traditionally five-day-a-week soap operas.

While a Twentieth spokesperson said the summer launch had always been a possibility, since the Fox owned-and-operated television stations have wanted the shows for a summer roll-out, the move also makes sense if one or more of the broadcast networks come out with telenovelas this summer.

Waiting until after the summer could have left the Twentieth show lost in the shuffle behind the network telenovelas, including from a promotional standpoint. 

Additionally, if one or more network telenovelas debuted and then bombed, negative perception of the genre could have hurt Desire even before it launched.

Twentieth’s telenovela will be structured in a 65-episode arc and run every weekday for 13 consecutive weeks. The storyline closes at the end of each arc.

Twentieth also is adding a one-hour weekend episode featuring highlights from the previous week’s storyline.

Twentieth says it plans to produce and distribute at least three telenovelas per year. The series will be distributed on a cash-plus-barter basis, with a 10.5 local-3.5 national split of ad minutes per hour-long episode.

While Twentieth made the first telenovela announcement, the format has created a stir, with the broadcast networks exploring opportunities in the genre, though none has greenlighted a project yet. 

NBC is looking at adapting co-owned Telemundo’s Body of Desire, a telenovela which could air multiple times per week. 

CBS says it has five telenovela projects in development and is also aiming to have one ready for the summer. ABC also is developing one, though Entertainment President Steve McPherson says his network is in an “exploratory phase.” 

It would be unlikely any of the broadcast-network projects, should they launch, would run more than a couple times per week.