Su casa es Televisa’s casa

Spanish-lingo giant brings content to homevid for the first time

November 10th, 2002 by mary sutter

MIAMI — Mexico’s Televisa is launching its Spanish-lingo home-entertainment label into the United States this year, with plans to enter Latin American and certain European markets in 2003.

The global rollout of Televisa Home Entertainment  is being handled  by Televisa Internacional, the Miami-based  distribution arm of the Mexican media giant.

Televisa Intl. inked a U.S. distribution accord with Santa Monica-based  Xenon Pictures, which specializes in urban and ethnic niche films. The partners aim to have videos and DVDs in stores in time for the holiday shopping season.

Early next year, Televisa will release their popular soap operas, giving novelas a new lease on life.

Unlike U.S. series, Latin soaps air as weekday strips, and the story concludes after a four-to-six month run. Popular novelas have been re-made (knovm as refritos) but are never shown as reruns or in any other format until now.

Xenon Pictures’ founder and CEO Leigh Savidge says his firm approached Televisa when it got wind of its plans, seeing enormous opportunity in America’s Latin sector.

“The timing is right for this. This is the hottest single ethnic niche going forward.” Savidge told Variety. “It’s a half a billion to $1 billion business.”

Gerardo Casanova Morales, director of new business development at Televisa Intl., said he was impressed  with Xenon’s track record  with other ethnic niches. “They opened the industry for the black and Asian markets.”

Televisa, which owns four broadcast nets in Mexico, is the world’s largest producer of Spanish-lingo  programming.

Casanova Morales’ goal is to release about 48 titles into the U.S. market during the first 12 months.

“It will be a very wide range of titles,” drawing from Televisa’s different operating units, he said. “Documentaries, musical productions, soap operas, movies.”

The first release  will be a “best of” compilation of episodes of the long-running family comedy show “El Chavo.” Featuring adults dressed as and portraying children, the program ran for decades in Mexico and was successfully exported to broadcasters around Latin America.

Docus will include bios of famed actors such as Maria Felix and Pedro Infante, politicos and historical figures. Televisa also has the rights to Mexican publisher Clio’s historical series entitled “20th Century Mexico.”

Savidge says Xenon Pictures has an existing relationship with retailers like Wal-Mart, K-Mart and Blockbuster, among others.

When Xenon first introduced African-American themed videos, “we focused on specific store sites and on stores within chains,” Savidge said. “We are going to do the same thing with Televisa.”