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Latino Daily News

Tuesday April 5, 2011

Telenovelas Key to Spanish-language Networks’ Gain in the Primetime Race

Telenovelas Key to Spanish-language Networks’ Gain in the Primetime Race

Photo: RPM Miami, Telemundo's more modern take on the telenovela

Click Here to Enlarge Photo

In February and March, Univision was the fourth-rated broadcast network in primetime, topping even NBC. Now, Telemundo is racing to catch up with its Spanish-language rival, and in the process utilizing the proven (yet still risky) formula of putting out must-see telenovelas.

Univision currently pulls in about 75 percent of U.S. Hispanic viewers with its more traditional programs, but Telemundo is looking to win over some of those viewers by going a different route.

Telemundo has chosen to challenge Univision with an unorthodox take on telenovelas. While the genre is generally full of lust, love, and dramatic stares from across the room, Telemundo is bringing guns, drugs, and fast cars into the game, and shaking things up in an effort to shake things up and draw the attention of a more acculturated Latino audience.

Studies have shown that each generation of Latinos in America is speaking less Spanish, and changing their overall views of the world, making them increasingly different from the generations before. So it stands to reason that what has appealed to audiences in the past may not appeal to newer viewers, and that seems to be where Telemundo is coming from.

Telenovelas are filled to the brim with the passion of Latin culture, and Univision has long been the leader in the melodramatic and routinely sexual programming, but Telemundo is no longer looking to follow in their footsteps.

Don Browne, president of Telemundo Communications Group, said, “In the early stages, we were trying to be what everybody else was, but we realized there’s an appetite for contemporary, smart content that speaks in a real way to Hispanics in this country.”

In comes Telemundo’s new telenovela “RPM Miami”. The show will only air May 1, and only once a week, not traditional 5-nights-a-week schedule. The series will be on Telemundo’s mun2 cable network, and is for a younger audience than usual. It will have a mix of pop-culture programming in English and Spanish, but will still include the dramatic storylines, romantic overtones, and a sexy Latin cast, all of which have become staples in the genre.

So as Univision continues to take on the major networks, Telemundo prepares to take on Univision with a more modern angle of the tried-and-true telenovelas hit.

“The telenovela genre is clearly one of the driving forces behind the success of Spanish-language media,” says Cesar Conde, president of Univision Networks. “They are a timeless genre.”