- By Region
For years, primetime soap melodramas of swooning maids falling in love with their rich employers have been largely the realm of Latin American households from Tijuana to Tierra del Fuego.
But this week, Televisa, the Mexican broadcasting group and undisputed king of the Spanish-language soap opera, will announce its biggest push to date into the English-language market as part of the company’s international expansion.
Televisa USA, as the Los Angeles-based studio will be called, will launch with multiple broadcast network deals, including a joint venture with Lionsgate, the global entertainment company, to develop new content for television audiences all over the US.
The move, which comes on the back of Televisa’s successful expansion into markets as far flung as China, also involves adapting content from Televisa’s existing library of Spanish-language soap opera titles, which it claims is the biggest in the world.
José Bastón, Televisa’s president of television and content, said “our stories are universal and they appeal to people all over the world regardless of language and culture”.
Televisa, which has been in the news recently for its alleged close ties with Enrique Peña Nieto, a leading candidate in Sunday’s presidential elections, has been producing soap operas in Mexico for more than 50 years. It reported net sales last year of 62.6bn pesos ($4.7bn), an increase of about 8 per cent compared with the previous year.
In 2010, Televisa, which is controlled by billionaire Emilio Azcárraga Jean, announced a $1.2bn investment in Univision, the largest Spanish-language television network in the US. The deal handed Televisa a 5 per cent equity stake in the company as well as debentures convertible into an additional 30 per cent stake in the future.
Executives said the launch of Televisa USA was independent of Televisa’s investment in and collaboration with Univision.
Televisa USA will be led by Paul Presburger, who will also continue to act as chief executive of Pantelion Films. Michael Garcia, who was vice-president of Drama Series for HBO and oversaw programmes such as The Sopranos, Six Feet Under and The Wire, will be the company’s chief creative officer.
“We see the growing need for cross-cultural programming, which we call ‘Latin feel, American appeal,” said Mr Garcia.
Televisa USA recently completed production of Devious Maids, a network pilot co-produced with ABC Studios and Oasis Media Group and to be transmitted by Lifetime Networks. It is producing an English-language adaptation of Alcanzar Una Estrella, the popular Mexican series, for Nickelodeon.
The series, called Hollywood Heights in its English-language format, is being co-produced by MTV networks and Sony Television, and is bringing the typical Latin American five-nights-a-week format to English-language audiences for the first time.
Televisa executives expect the daily format to provide US advertisers with a unique vehicle to sell their goods. “Advertisers know that they are going to be able to target their audience from Monday to Friday while TV networks will have a much more efficient product from a cost perspective,” Fernando Pérez Gavilán, head of Televisa International, told the FT.