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ABC Rethinks Ugly Betty

When ABC commissioned Touchstone’s Ugly Betty as a once-a-week pilot for fall—originally slated as a weekly strip­—it seemed the network’s interest had waned.

But ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson says he still hasn’t ruled out turning the English-language adaptation of Colombia’s Betty la Fea into a five-day-a-week summer series.

First, he says, the network must figure out a way to economically produce a telenovela strip and still make it work creatively.

“It could be transformed into that situation,” he says. “It was initially considered for the summer, and I think it would be great there.”

ABC could also choose to develop a telenovela format of its own for summer 2007 or beyond. “We may do one that is not Hispanic,” McPherson says.

Ugly Betty, about an efficient yet unattractive secretary at a fashion magazine, is executive-produced by Salma Hayek, Jose Tamez, Ben Silverman and writer Silvio Horta. The cast includes Vanessa Williams (Wilhelmina) and America Ferrera (Betty).

After dominating prime time Latin American and U.S. Spanish-language TV viewing for years, telenovelas have spurred the interest of American television networks. They are racing to capture a rapidly growing market consisting of younger, second- and third-generation Hispanics who are bilingual or speak English as their primary language.

NBC Universal is developing a number of concepts for its broadcast and cable networks derived from its Telemundo network, including Body of Desire.

CBS, meanwhile, has several potential original telenovela-like limited series in development that would run twice weekly. And Twentieth Television is producing Desireand Secret Obsessions as five-day, hour-long strips with 13-week seasons to launch Fox’s My Network TV in September.