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Spanish-Language Nets Set Game Shows

New York-The game-show craze has reached Spanish-language television, with rival Spanish networks Univision and Telemundo both unveiling plans last week to schedule new game shows in primetime this September.

Univision plans to run 90-minute family game show A Millon (To a Million in Spanish) Sundays at 8:30 p.m., while Telemundo will run Numeros Rojos (Red Numbers) Saturdays at 8 p.m.

Both networks pitched advertisers the game shows and other new programs during their upfront presentations here last week.

Emphasizing that Univision is the No. 5 network in terms of ratings for both English- and Spanish-language broadcast and cable networks, Univision Communications Inc. executives said there should be parity reflected in the ad revenue it generates from its ratings.

Univision dominates the ratings in the Spanish-language market. It consistently beats general-market broadcasters in top Hispanic markets.

Univision focused on drawing revenue from general-market rivals, barely acknowledging its distant competitor, Telemundo.

Telemundo used its presentation to point out that its ratings have increased from last year in every demographic (up 44 percent for men 18 to 49, 55 percent for adults 25 to 54 and 60 percent for women 18 to 49).

"Make no mistake: The landscape in Spanish-language television is starting to change to a future where no one can claim a monopoly," Telemundo executive vice president of sales Steve Levin said.

Although Telemundo's ratings may have increased since last year, they have only risen to the level they had reached before Sony Corp. and Liberty Media Group purchased the network in 1998, Univision president of entertainment Mario Rodriguez said.

"When you are coming off a 1 [rating-point] average in adults 18 to 49, and in the next year, you hit a 2 or 3, that's going to look huge in terms of percentages," he added.

After running several sitcoms and action shows based on U.S. classics such as Charlie's Angels following the Sony and Liberty acquisition, Telemundo added more novelas in primetime last year. Its 2000-01 schedule includes a weekday, four-hour novela block, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., including a new series of novelas that will be produced by Brazilian media power TV Globo.

Starcom Media Services senior vice president and media director Monica Fragale Gadsby said she thought the TV Globo co-production deal was the most significant announcement of the Spanish upfront, noting that Globo produces some of the best novelas in the world. Most of Univision's novelas are produced by Mexican broadcaster Grupo Televisa S.A.

"Globo is definitely an option that can hold a candle to Televisa and compete on equal footing," she added.

Telemundo is adding a 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekday-morning show, Buenos Dias, hosted by former CBS This Morning host Jose Diaz-Balart and former Univision anchor Gloria Calzada.

On Sundays, Los Beltran, a sitcom about a Cuban-American family adjusting to life in the United States, will return to the 8 p.m. slot. Telemundo will run Viva Vegas!, a sitcom about "two brothers and a group of dreamers and schemers who populate the wacky world of Las Vegas in search of girls, glamour and money," at 8:30 p.m.

The network is also bulking up its sports-programming lineup, with a new World Wresting Federation series on Saturdays and several soccer shows. Telemundo recently recruited several of Univision's sports staff, including Andres Cantor, the soccer announcer famous for screaming, "Goal!"

For the first time, Univision will launch a U.S.-produced sitcom, Estamos Unidos (United Always), starring Miss Universe 1996 Alicia Machado. The half-hour show will run Friday at 10 p.m.

The network plans to produce 10 dramatic miniseries next season, produced by its Producciones Univision unit, beginning this fall with one based on the career of Mexican rock star Gloria Trevi.

Univision will also launch Romona, a one-hour drama series about a Mexican family living in California in the 1800s (Sundays at 10 p.m.), and it will expand its weekend kids' block to eight hours with a new brand, "De Cabeza" (On Your Head).

On Tuesdays at 10 p.m., Univision will launch a second primetime newsmagazine show, Ver Para Creer (See It to Believe It), a reality show featuring sensational stories.