Santa Monica-based independent studio Lionsgate and Mexico's programming powerhouse Grupo Televisa are expanding their budding partnership with a new venture that aims to create television shows for English-language audiences.
The move continues a trend of major media companies in the U.S. looking south to Latin America for programming concepts and business partners. Earlier this week, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. said it planned to launch a new broadcast network this fall in collaboration with Colombian broadcaster RCN.
Companies -- and advertisers -- are becoming increasingly interested in capitalizing on the growing clout of Latino consumers. They make up the fastest growing demographic group in the U.S.
Lionsgate and Televisa -- Mexico's largest media company -- said Tuesday that their new unit would tackle six to eight TV projects a year. The plan is to mine story lines from Televisa's vast vault of wildly popular telenovelas and adapt them into English-language comedies and dramas for U.S. broadcast networks and cable channels. Executives also intend to develop original concepts for scripted and unscripted shows.
The two companies first went into business in 2010 with a joint venture called Pantelion Films. Its purpose is to acquire and distribute feature films that appeal to Latinos in the U.S.
The parties declined to disclose financial terms of their new TV arrangement. The soon-to-be-named venture will be managed by Paul Presburger, chief executive of Pantelion Films. Presburger helped put the TV entity together with Lionsgate on behalf of Televisa.
Televisa separately has an equity stake in Univision Communications, the largest Spanish-language media company in the U.S. Televisa's programming fuels the prime-time ratings on the flagship Univision network, helping to build it into the nation's fifth most popular network.
A handful of projects already are in development for English-language programmers, including a comedic adaptation of Pantelion's first film, "From Prada to Nada." The firm is working on a scripted drama for ABC based on Televisa's smash hit "Soy Tu Duena." The new show will be called "Badlands." Walt Disney Co.-owned ABC Studios is collaborating on the series.
Until now, little of Televisa's programming was accessible to mainstream audiences. The new development, unveiled at the National Assn. of Television Program Executives convention in Miami, followed Univision's announcement that it would begin adding English-language subtitles through closed caption to its prime-time telenovelas.
-- Meg James
Photo: Actors Fernando Colunga and Lucero in Televisa's telenovela "Soy Tu Duena," which produced huge ratings in the U.S. for the Univision network. Credit: Antonio Uribe / Univision