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Soap Opera Seeks to Speak to Latinos


On May 28, the world's most-watched daytime drama, "The Bold and The Beautiful," will target new viewers in the United States by introducing a regular Latino character (a handsome fashion designer) as well as a long-awaited Spanish-language audio feed that will be available to nearly half the Latino homes in the country.

This will mark the first time a network uses Secondary Audio Program, which provides Spanish translations, for a daytime drama.

All of the general television networks envy the huge audiences that consistently tune in to watch telenovelas on this country's two main Spanish-language networks.

Telenovelas are such a sure bet among Latino viewers that Univision and Telemundo, the country's largest Spanish-language television networks, simply block out their entire weeknight, prime-time lineups with four of the serial melodramas.

"The Bold and The Beautiful" already has proven international appeal from India to Australia, appearing in 100 markets in 45 languages. But CBS is looking for ways to bolster its No. 2 standing in the domestic daytime ratings competition.

"We're hoping to bring in the audience, that vast potential," said Bradley Bell, executive producer and head writer of "The Bold and the Beautiful." (Bell's father created the show in 1987 as a spinoff from "The Young and the Restless").

CBS isn't the first network to borrow that bit of strategy from Spanish-language television. Last December, ABC launched a 13-week experiment during "Port Charles," that mimicked the story arcs of telenovelas, in which cookie-cutter plots are resolved in a short period.

Mirroring telenovela style, ABC is now writing "Port Charles" in 13-week "books." The second book was launched March 5, and the third book will begin on June 4.

Bell said there are no plans to initiate that kind of strategy on "The Bold and the Beautiful," but he did say that the soap's newest character (uncast as of press time Wednesday) will be the son of Mexican immigrants who was born and raised in Southern California. According to Bell, the character will fall in love with the daughter of the show's anchor family, the Forresters. He'll be joined in June by his younger brother and several Latina fashion models who work for them.

"The Bold and The Beautiful" can be seen weekdays at 12:30 p.m. on CBS. The network has rated it TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children younger than 14).

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