Univision Positions Against English-Language Broadcast Nets

Touts New Reality Shows and Long-Running Hits

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Univision presented a mix of new shows and old favorites at its upfront presentation yesterday as speculation continued that at least one bid will be made soon to acquire the biggest Spanish-language media group in the U.S.
'Bailando Por Un Sueno' (Dancing for a Dream) has been a surprise runaway hit for Univision. The show pairs ordinary people and stars as dancing partners.
'Bailando Por Un Sueno' (Dancing for a Dream) has been a surprise runaway hit for Univision. The show pairs ordinary people and stars as dancing partners.

"Nielsen says we're younger and have fewer commercials per hour than all our competitors," said Dennis McCauley, co-president, Network Sales. "Now is the time to reallocate dollars."

When Univision says competitors, it means the English-language networks. With Spanish-language networks included in Nielsen's National Television Index since January, Univision hopes the more side-by-side comparison with CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox will help Univision win ad dollars now spent with the English-language networks.

Look who loves novelas
Unveiling the latest "novelas," the soap-opera-style shows that are the bedrock of Univision's high audience ratings, network executives amusingly commented on how English-language networks during the upfront have been hailing novelas as a new format and are experimenting with English-language versions.

In non-novela programming, Univision is capitalizing on a surprise runaway hit, "Bailando Por Un Sueno" ("Dancing for a Dream"), that pairs ordinary people and stars as dancing duos -- this year's winner was able to help his grandmother get a much-needed operation. Besides returning for a second season, "Bailando" is spinning off "Cantando Por Un Sueno" ("Singing for a Dream"). The network is also playing on the Latin love of beauty pageants with a reality show called "Belleza Latina" ("Latin Beauty") in which viewers will help pick the winner. Univision emphasized that there will be lots of opportunities for sponsors, from participating in the judging to promoting winners and using them as spokeswomen.

Playing the heritage card
Univision also played the heritage card, winning strong applause as Alina Falcon, exec VP-general manager of Univision Network, announced this year is the 25th anniversary of Univision's acclaimed news operation, and the 20th anniversary of "Sabado Gigante" host Don Francisco. (Rival Telemundo made a point of calling that show "tired" when it announced plans earlier this week for its own Saturday variety show, "El Gran Show," although agency execs expressed doubts about Telemundo's chances against the powerful "Sabado Gigante" franchise.)

Univision also tugged at the heartstrings with a tribute to Otto Padron, projecting a huge photo of Univision's senior VP-programming and promotions surrounded by soldiers in Iraq, where he is serving as a captain and training local Iraqi forces. Ms. Falcon said he hopes to be back at Univision by the end of the year.

No. 2 Univision network TeleFutura has scrambled to revamp its programming lineup as NBC Universal's Telemundo, a distant second to Univision but pretty close to TeleFutura in ratings, has posted impressive audience gains in the past year. Boosting its original programming, TeleFutura is scrapping the Mexican version of the game show "Family Feud" it aired previously and will produce its own version called "Que Dice La Gente?" ("What Do People Say?").

"It's 'Family Feud' created for a U.S. Hispanic audience," emphasized Bert Medina, TeleFutura's senior VP-operating manager.

Digital offerings
As Hispanic sites start experimenting with streaming video -- Telemundo is offering one of its shows called "Laura en America" in a video-on-demand version, and bilingual soccer cable channel Gol TV will stream two soccer games a week -- Univision is at a disadvantage due to a dispute with Mexican media giant Grupo Televisa over who owns the digital rights to programming Univision buys from Televisa.

Univision-owned Galavision, the leading Hispanic cable channel, is adding shows in two genres -- home decor and cooking -- that are less developed on Spanish-language TV. In "Notas de Estilo" ("Style Notes"), professional decorators visit viewers' homes, make suggestions on revamping a room and carry out the makeover with however much money is found in a sealed envelope. In "Delicioso", Ingrid Hoffman cooks wearing low-cut blouses. And taking advantage of being in the TV business, Galavision is starting a reality show called "Mision: Reportar" to find the next entertainment reporter.

Univision execs all refused to comment on impending bids for Univision, but at least two groups composed mainly of private-equity firms are preparing offers. A key member of one of the groups is Grupo Televisa, Univision's main program supplier and already a shareholder with an 11% stake in the company. Bill Gates' Cascade is part of that group, leading Hispanic media to dub the Microsoft Corp. chairman "Billito."

A crammed upfront week
As upfront week draws to a close, it was unclear how many people would make it to the final session this evening, Discovery en Espanol's first upfront presentation (Discovery was hopeful of attracting about 200 people). Agency executives were experiencing major upfront fatigue after yesterday's grueling schedule: Univision's 90-minute morning presentation, ESPN Deportes' in the late afternoon, English-language Hispanic cable channel Si TV's at 6 p.m. and People en Espanol's popular "Mas Bellos" ("Most Beautiful Hispanics") party in the evening.
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