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Sony Pictures Entertainment Co. last week set the stage for its first major move into Spanish-language TV in the U.S., as it joined a group that bid to acquire floundering Telemundo Group.

The presence of Sony and Tele-Communications Inc.'s Liberty Media Corp. is likely to bring a wave of fresh, new programming to Telemundo, helping the second-place Hispanic network compete with Univision Network.

Telemundo is being acquired for $539 million by Sony, Liberty and two venture-capital companies. The buy gives Sony its first access to U.S. Hispanic TV for programming it already produces for the general market and its Latin American satellite network.


Sony will take control of programming and marketing of Telemundo. Major changes are expected in the lineup and style of the network. Telemundo's traditional Hispanic staples of Spanish-language soap operas, called telenovelas; talk shows; and variety programs will probably be augmented by dubbed versions of Sony-owned properties such as "The Nanny," "The Young & the Restless" and "Wheel of Fortune."

Additional content could come from Columbia TriStar Television Group's domestic U.S. library. Spanish-language programming could come from Sony Entertainment Television, which is broadcast into Latin America. All programming will be adapted to U.S. Spanish-speaking audiences.


Liberty will be able to contribute content, too. Its Spanish-language properties include Discovery Latin America, Discovery Kids Latin America, Travel Channel Latin America and QVC. QVC will launch a Spanish-language shopping network in the U.S.

Liberty can supply sports content through Fox Sports Americas, its Latin American cable network.

Telemundo executives would not comment on their plans.

"This is Hollywood coming to Spanish TV," said Jose Del Cueto, president of TransAmerica Media Group, Miami, a media buying company specializing in the U.S. Hispanic and Latin American markets. "It's going to inject programming and wherewithal to a company that badly needs it."

At rival Univision, ownership stakes by Mexican TV giant Televisa and Venezuelan media conglomerate Venevision provide the U.S. network with attractive international programming.

The acquisition also potentially will bring more households to the Telemundo brand and help it compete against its giant rival. Telemundo owns eight TV stations nationwide, vs. Univision's 21, and affiliate agreements bring Telemundo's penetration to 60 U.S. markets. Telemundo's 18% share is dwarfed by Univision's 82%. Telemundo's share has declined from a peak of 40% in 1992.


The challenge facing the new owners is to make Telemundo content something viewers will want to watch, said Allen Gottesman, an independent media and investment consultant.

Sony's relationship with Telemundo "doesn't automatically mean anything," he cautioned. "The key issue is not who owns you; it's who watches you."

Those who follow the U.S. Hispanic market, however, welcome any product that will provide new programming in which marketers can advertise.

"For the first time ever, Telemundo has a content component to it," Mr. Del

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