Novelas all over and a $1M game show

Anyone know how to say "Is that your final answer?" in Spanish? Cashing in on Regis Philbin's Energizer-bunny-like success this season, Univision execs trumpeted to advertisers the fall launch of new game show A Million during its New York fall upfront presentation. The series, airing Sunday nights at 8:30 (hosted by Latin film and TV star Daniela Romo), is the first Spanish-language game show offering contestants the chance to win a million dollars. Family members will team up to answer general trivia questions, all revolving around Latin-American culture.

"This is a jump on the game-show frenzy and will be the talk of our industry and pride of our market," said Univision Television Network Entertainment President Mario Rodriguez.

Telemundo, a distant second in the ratings race to rival Univision, announced its own scaled-down version of a money game show for the new season. In Numeros Rojos, which will air Saturdays at 8 p.m., contestants vie for a chance to have their debts paid.

Univision network executives also announced that the network will produce its first situation comedy, Estamos Unidos. The half-hour show will star 1996's Miss Universe Alicia Machado and will run Fridays at 10 p.m.

That's one area where Univision is following the lead of Telemundo, which last year launched its first sitcom, Los Beltran, which has been renewed for a second season. A new sitcom, Viva Vegas!, will follow Los Beltran at 8:30 on Sunday nights. Vegas follows the misadventures of two brothers.

Univision's Henry Cisneros is betting the beefed up lineup at Univision (the fifth-largest network overall in terms of viewership, topping both The WB and UPN) will benefit from the current Ricky Martin-tinged atmosphere. "Over the last couple of years, the U.S. has experienced a true Latin explosion," Cisneros said.

In other prime time launches, Univision will fire up a drama series set in the 1800s entitled Ramona (Sundays at 10 p.m.), and has also approved the fall production of its first miniseries. It will be based on Mexican rock star Gloria Trevi. As for the network's signature novelas, new titles to debut are teen-skewing Amigos por Siempre ("Friends Forever"), and Locura de Amor ("Love Madness"); adult-themed Mujeres Enganadas ("Deceived Women"), Arazame Muy Fuerte" ("Hold Me Tightly") and La Casa en la Playa ("The House on the Beach"). Univision will also launch a second news magazine to air 10 p.m. on Tuesdays, Ver Para Creer ("See It to Believe It").

Rolling out fresh for Saturday at 4 p.m. is Serafin, a computer-animation/ live-action family series.

Univision will also telecast three new soccer tournaments Copa de Campeones, Camino a la Copa and Copa America on weekends.

Telemundo's weekday prime time strategy for 2000-2001 season: All telenovelas all the time. That's a big change from a year ago, when the network, then overseen by Peter Tortorici, unveiled a three-pronged strategy that included telenovelas from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., followed by reality shows from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., with news from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m.

But as James McNamara (who replaced Tortorici last August) told advertisers last week, that strategy helped put the network in "ratings Siberia." At Telemundo, said McNamara, "we love novelas, and, more important, our audience loves novelas."

At the upfront last week, McNamara also announced that the network is adding a morning news show called Buenos Dias that will be co-hosted by Gloria Calzada and Jose Diaz-Balart.

The network is also adding a new late-night comedy/celebrity interview strip called A Oscuras Pero Encendidos at 11:30 p.m. The host is Paul Bouche. A weekday-morning kids block, from Nickelodeon, will move to Saturday and Sunday mornings at 8:30 a.m. On Sunday nights, a new reality show, Agrandaditos (think Kids Say the Darndest Things), debuts at 7:30 p.m.