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Telemundo Slates First Hour Dramas

Emphasizing its strategy to program originals, NBC Universal-owned Telemundo unveiled an upfront campaign called "Hecho para ti" ("made for you") at its new schedule presentation to advertisers Tuesday.

The network will add four new novelas for prime and its first hour dramas, in addition to new reality, sports and news offerings.

An underdog to Univision, which last year claimed 70% of the upfront's overall $1.1 billion in ad spend, Telemundo emphasized the value of producing its own content rather than receiving it from out outside supplier, as Univision does from Mexico's Grupo Televiso.

In 2004, Telemundo upped its spending on novelas to $60 million from $40 million in 2003. Producing originals "allows you to control your own destiny," said Telemundo President Don Browne, "We're focused on quality, execution and performance." This fall in prime, it will add four new novelas. Three more novelas will join later in the season

Telemundo will for the first time branch into original dramas, a format which has shown limited success in the U.S. Hispanic market.

Two hour-long, 13-episode series are set for weekend prime. Envios chronicles Mexican immigrants and the families they leave behind, while Loteria looks at life changes that befall lottery winners.

Also for the weekends are two new reality shows resembling MTV's recent hit My Super Sweet 16, La Quinceanera gives 15-year-old girls the 15th birthday party of their dreams and Suenos y Sorpresas surpises people by making their dreams comes true.

New specials include Special Olympics music benefit "Noche de Paz" and New Year's concert "Fiesta de Ano Nuevo," set at NBC's Universal Studios in Orlando.

Weekend daytime will continue to focus on family-focused home improvement and music shows, as well as movies.

New additions to the schedule include community activism series S.O.S, and El Regalo Final, in which designers remodel rooms for families with upcoming milestones. And Monday through Friday daytime focuses on talk with returning series Cotorreando, Rocio, and Caso Cerrado.

Although under NBC ownership the network has increased spending on original productions, Univision's three-year-old spinoff network Telefutura still has the number two spot in dayparts. And Telemundo still only has a 17% share of Spanish-language TV viewers 18-49 overall.

But programming originals protects it from the threat of a foreign broadcaster cutting off its programming supply, said Telemundo EVP of Programming and Production Ramon Escobar, referring to the recently publicized spat between Univision and its Mexican novela supplier, Televiso.

While showing a Star Wars clip at last night's upfront, Escobar likened Univision to an "evil empire" for its reluctance to produce originals. "They would have you believe first-run original programming is bad for the viewers and for you," he told advertisers in attendance. "That's nuts. It's simply a Jedi trick. We've struck back and fired with everything we've got. The force is with us."