Telemundo's latest telenovela, La Reina del Sur (Queen of the South), might very well be titled
Queen of the Ratings.
The 70-episode drama, which premiered Feb. 28, didn't just
become the highest-rated premiere in the history of Telemundo, delivering an
audience of 2.4 million viewers that night. It continued to outperform not only
archrival Univision but all English-language networks weeknights at 10 p.m. during
its second week.
The novela, which follows the story of Teresa Mendoza (Kate
del Castillo), a woman caught up in the world of drug trafficking from Mexico
to southern Spain, quickly became Telemundo's highest-rated drama, reaching 10
million viewers since its premiere and averaging more than 2.8 million total
viewers in its second week.
La Reina has also managed
to send Telemundo's archrival, Univision, scrambling to set up an aggressive
counterprogramming strategy. Univision extended El triunfo del amor, a popular 9 p.m. telenovela from Mexican
broadcaster Televisa, to two hours, and ran a second telenovela on Telefutura
with no or limited commercials for several days.
On March 14, Univision again ran El triunfo del amor for two hours to keep viewers from fleeing to
Telemundo at 10 p.m.
A Univision representative said the changes were made "because
we are constantly looking for ways to deliver to our audience and to adjust our
programming to be responsive. This change is part of an ongoing commitment to
For Telemundo, the ratings success is a matter of return on
"This hasn't happened by chance," Telemundo president Don
Browne said. "This is the result of a strategy that began six years ago, when
we decided to become one of the biggest content producers in the world."
La Reina del Sur
is the adaptation of a book written by Spanish author Arturo Perez-Reverte. The
story of Teresa Mendoza is also one of Telemundo's most ambitious production
projects: It was filmed in high-definition in several countries around the
globe, including Mexico, Spain and Morocco.
Telemundo has sold an edited version of 14 episodes to Spanish
broadcaster Antena 3 of Spain, which launched the series on March 14. La Reina del Sur is one of the few
original Telemundo telenovelas without brand integration woven into its plot.
While La Reina is
expected to continue racking up ratings wins, Browne said he believes Telemundo
is only beginning to see the fruits of its spending on originals.
"You are only as good as your last story," Browne, a former
TV journalist, said.