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Upfronts 2016: Univision, Netflix Strike Two Cross-Platform Deals

In a splashy upfront – complete with pop acts, dancers and comics – Univision on Tuesday announced two new deals with Netflix, one of which upends broadcasters’ relationship with the streaming platform as we now know it.

In a first for a broadcaster, Univision will air the first season of a Netflix original – the Pablo Escobar series Narcos – leading up to the launch of its second season, which will air exclusively on Netflix. The network’s cable channel UniMás will air the first season of another Netflix series, Club de Cuervos, under a similar arrangement.

The “reverse syndication” deal is the first of its kind between a linear TV outlet and Netflix, although the industry has been bracing for one for several years.

And that’s not the only way Univision and Netflix are partnering.

The network also announced a production deal with the streaming platform under which they will co-produce El Chapo, a series about the notorious Mexican drug lord.

The series will be available to U.S. Netflix members after it airs on Univision’s cable channel, UniMás, in 2017. In the rest of the world, episodes of El Chapo will premiere exclusively on Netflix.

Univision also made the most of its upfront venue – New York’s Lyric Theatre – using network talent to the Harlem Gospel Choir to showcase new multi-platform initiatives.

Steve Mandala, Univision’s executive VP of advertising and sales, told the crowd of advertisers and affiliates that expanding programming and advertising options around content – particularly sports, comedy, drama and music – stems from Univision’s “incredibly healthy” core business.

“Our brand’s health provides license to innovate from a position of strength rather than desperation,” he said, adding that the initiatives are aimed “super-serving” Hispanic viewers while  expanding the network’s reach to non-Hispanics as well.

Programming announcements included the addition of Saturday night soccer, as well as a broadcast of the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, to the Univision Deportes lineup.

In expanding its comedy offerings, Univision will be leveraging two new assets – The Onion and Fusion – with a show based on the humor brand on the cable channel. Sitcoms such as 40 y 20, which focuses on an Odd Couple-like situation between father and son, will be added as well.

The network’s drama lineup will focus on shows that are faster-paced and tell real-life stories. Telenovela Mujeres De Negro, Tres Veces Ana, and El Príncipe will be available across platforms.

Dramas such as Su Verdadero Nombre Era Dolores, which tells the real-life story of the singer Jenni Rivera, reflects Univision’s music initiative, as does the competitive pop music show La Banda.