Novela or No: Hispanic Nets Split Paths


New York -- The rival Spanish-language networks unveiled
their programming plans and strategies for the upcoming season last week, with Telemundo
putting novelas back on its schedule and Univision venturing into made-for-TV

Telemundo -- owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment and
Liberty Media Group -- discussed two strategies it is pursuing for the coming season at
its upfront: The network is bringing back soap-opera novelas to primetime, and it
will no longer create Spanish-language versions of American shows, such as Charlie's
. The idea is to create Spanish-language shows from fresh ideas.

Telemundo is bringing back novelas to its lineup
from Mexican company TV Azteca, and they will air from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. weeknights. Last
year, the network cut back the amount of novelas it was airing, and it lost
audience as a result.

Univision -- the dominant Spanish-language network, with 90
percent of the primetime Hispanic audience -- said at its upfront last week that it would
begin producing 10 to 12 original movies per year starting this year, including dramas,
comedies and adventures. Some of the telepics will also be released as theatricals in
Latin America. Principal photography has been completed on four of them.

Univision officials also maintained that their continued
viewership gains were not coming at the expense of Telemundo, but rather, that audience
was being lured from English-language television.

In fact, Univision trotted out Nielsen Media Research data
showing that the Spanish-language network holds its own or beats rivals such as the
"Big Four" broadcast networks and Lifetime Television in overall delivery and
demographics such as women.

Univision has a host of new daytime and primetime novelas
coming to its schedule this coming season, including one set in the Middle Ages, Amar
, and one for teens, Sona Doras.

"[Novelas] have the highest ratings of any
program format among Hispanics," Univision president of entertainment Mario Rodriguez
said. "They are a cultural phenomenon with no similarity to anything in the general

To boost its share of original programming that
doesn't just mimic U.S. shows, Telemundo has signed a two-year production deal with
Antonio Banderas' and Melanie Griffith's Green Moon Productions.

In a prepared statement, Green Moon said it planned to
offer a creative outlet for the growing Latino talent pool of actors, writers and

Telemundo is also expanding its programming partnership
with MTV Latin America, a unit of MTV Networks.

Under a new, two-year deal, MTV Latin America will provide
fare for a two-hour weekly block that will showcase the latest videos and entertainment
geared to young U.S. Latinos. MTV en Telemundo will air Fridays at 11:30 p.m.,
premiering in August.

Telemundo has already teamed up with MTVN on a block of
kids' programming from Nickelodeon that airs on the network weekdays at 6:30 a.m.

Telemundo's fall lineup will include a block of news
and information programming weeknights at 10 p.m. That block will kick off Mondays with
Spanish-language television's first weekly primetime newsmagazine, Siglo XXI.

At its upfront, Univision announced that it would introduce
a late-night block, "Noche a Noche," which it claimed would bring
primetime-caliber programming to the 11:30 p.m. weeknight time slot.

The shows that will air in that block include newsmagazine Duro
y Directo
and variety-talk show Otro Rollo.

Both Univision and Telemundo are distributed through a
combination of outlets -- mainly TV stations, but also some cable carriage. For example,
Univision has nearly 1,000 cable-system affiliates.