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Spanish-Language Networks Seek Wider Niche

Television: Univision hit on a winning formula for expanding its audience base. Now rival Telemundo offers a revamped lineup-- with no prime-time soaps.

September 21, 1998|KEVIN BAXTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"In order for us to really be a choice, we've got to be out there with something that really is different . . . than what's being offered."

To accomplish that, Telemundo has dropped novelas from prime time; in their place, the network will make heavy use of Sony's movie and serial library. Among the 10 shows that will debut this fall is the sitcom "Solo en America," a thinly disguised remake of Sony's "One Day at a Time," updated versions of "The Dating Game" and "The Newlywed Game," and the police drama "Reyes y Rey." In addition, prime-time movie blocks on Tuesday and Thursday will feature dubbed versions of recent Hollywood releases.

The new lineup, which will be shown locally on KVEA-TV Channel 52, will begin its rollout Sept. 28 and is expected to be fully in place by Thanksgiving.

L.A.'s two part-time Spanish-language stations--KWHY-TV Channel 22 and KRCA-TV Channel 62--will mirror Telemundo's strategy, counterprogramming Univision's novelas with talk shows, news and English-language dramas dubbed in Spanish. Unlike Telemundo, though, it wasn't a strategy they chose, but rather one they were forced to accept.

"I would love to have some Televisa novelas," says Fernando Schiantarelli, KWHY's programming director. "Their audience is very loyal. Novelas are very strong programs for our community."

But since Univision has exclusive rights to novelas produced by Televisa, KWHY was forced to look elsewhere for programming. As a result, the independent station, which airs eight hours of Spanish-language programming weekdays and 10 1/2 on Saturday and Sunday, produces much of its content locally, including the evening game show "Cuanto Cuesta," Humberto Luna's afternoon variety show "La Tarde Lunatica" and three 30-minute newscasts. In fact, more than a quarter of KWHY's programming is done locally, a higher percentage than either of the two network affiliates.

"We are very local and we're going to stay that way," says Schiantarelli. "We want to keep being a reflection of the city."

KRCA inaugurated its Spanish lineup Aug. 31 with programming consisting largely of dubbed versions of old Universal serials such as "Airwolf" and "Emergency" and old Mexican movies. The station, which can be seen in a six-county area, is run by Liberman Broadcasting Inc., owner of four Spanish-language radio stations in the L.A.-Orange County market.

KRCA airs Spanish programming weekdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Asian-language fare throughout the rest of its broadcast schedule.

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