Networks Try Telenovelas: Cheap Summer Entertainment?

What with the standard flux of sitcoms, procedural crime dramas, reality shows, and medical shows, prime-time genres have been pretty stale over the last few years.

Now ABC and CBS, as well as a bunch of other producers, are looking to break out a bit in the summer--their experimentation time--by producing English-language versions of Spanish-language style "telenovelas," focused mainly on love and betrayal.

ABC and CBS are looking at telenovelas as short-term programming efforts--perfect for the summer. These limited series could run perhaps twice, or up to five times, a week, and resolve all plots after two or three months of summertime airing.

Running English language telenovelas will also have the side benefit of attracting growing U.S. bilingual Latin-American viewers already familiar with the format.



And, yes, there is an economic reason behind all of this--programming costs to produce these efforts would be lower than standard scripted fare. Still, networks should be cheered in coming up with another prime-time category--and making good their efforts to bulk up their schedules with more scripted programming.

Lower economic costs could perhaps be even a bit lower now that Jonathan Prince and Madison Road Entertainment are linked to some prospective telenovela projects. Madison Road is the branded entertainment agency that has integrated projects into a number of shows--including "The Apprentice," and "America's Next Top Model."

Both networks have said that product integration could be part of these summer series. All this is consistent with summertime fare such as reality and game shows, which typically throw many products into shows.

The subject matter of telenovelas seems too simple: love and betrayal, on a closed-end series. Existing Spanish-language telenovelas also seem to be pared down versus standard primetime programming--these dramas are produced on video, not film, and there are few costly exterior location scenes.

This would then work well with viewers in the summer--who have shown they are too busy with other stuff to get really involved with new ongoing series. As is evident from the popularity of reality shows in previous summers such as "Big Brother" and "Dancing With the Stars," summertime viewers like stripped-down entertainment that'll end quickly.

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