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Fall TV Season: Telemundo lands talk-show host Cristina Saralegui

Christina Cristina Saralegui -- forced last fall to retire from Univision after hosting her popular talk show for 21 years -- has landed a new gig for a weekly variety show at competitor Telemundo.

And the outspoken Cuban-born Spanish-language media icon made it clear this week that her parting from industry leader Univision was definitely not sweet sorrow. 

"Yes, the tiny terror is back," Saralegui thundered into a microphone Tuesday night as she purposely strode across the stage at the American Museum of Natural History  in New York, where Telemundo unveiled its new fall lineup to advertisers.  The crowd -- including advertisers and dozens of employees of Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal, which owns Telemundo -- roared its approval with loud applause.

Saralegui thanked Don Browne, president of Telemundo, for giving her "the chance to have a home." She said she had been impressed because Telemundo execcutives had treated her with such respect.

"I'm not used to that," Saralegui said. "I come from another world."

The popular host's signing with Telemundo -- Saralegui's new weekend show is expected to begin at the end of this year -- rachets up the already strong rivalry between the two Spanish-language media companies. 

Although Univision has long dominated the field, Telemundo has made substantial gains in recent months, due, in part, to the success of its top 10 p.m. telenovela, "La Reina del Sur."  Telemundo said Tuesday it had increased its marketshare 16% in key time periods since May 2010.

Telemundo announced a new lineup that included four new telenovelas: "Amor de Película " (Love, Just like in the Movies), "Caídas del Cielo," (Fallen From Heaven), "Física o Química" (Physical or Chemistry), "Una Maid en Manhattan" (Maid in Manhattan).  The company also renewed its agreement to air the Billboard Latin Music Awards and said it would add "Premios Billboard de la Música Regional Mexicana," an awards show dedicated to regional Mexican music. 

Last fall, Univision tried to quietly show Saralegui the door after canceling her weekly "El Show de Cristina."  At the time, Saralegui hinted that her "retirement" was not voluntary.  Tuesday, she called herself a pioneer, "that's what they call old people now,"  the 63-year-old host said, adding,  "I would like to continue to do groundbreaking television, and I want to do that here."

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-- Meg James 

Photo: Cristina Saralegui in 2010. Credit: Pedro Portal/El Nuevo Herald.

 
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