Accessibility links

Hispanic TV Networks Ramp Up Telenovela Production

  • Steve Mort

Hispanic television networks in the United States are ramping up domestic production of Spanish-language programming. Traditionally, most Spanish-language programs were brought-in from Central and South America. But now, talk shows and telenovelas (serialized dramas in Spanish) are increasingly being made in the US.

Mi Corazon Insiste is a telenovela currently being filmed in Miami. The soapy love-story airs on the US network Telemundo.

Cynthia Olavarria has starred in four telenovelas and is playing in this one. She says, for viewers, the shows are a form of escapism.

"I think that's part of the magic of the novellas," said Olavarria. "We have many problems in our personal lives or your job or anything else, and then you go to see something different."

Mi Corazon is one of a growing number of dramas being produced in the United States in Spanish.

Some have even become among the top ten most watched shows.

Media analyst Adam Jacobson says census figures show that Hispanics account for 16 percent of the US population and their numbers account for the growth in Spanish-language TV.

"[The] Hispanic population today is really being fueled by US births," said Jacobson. "We still see that, even though there are people that are speaking English mainly, if they do speak some Spanish, they are going to tune in to some Spanish-language television."

Telemundo used to import most of its telenovelas. Now it is making many of its own. Two are currently in production at its Miami studios.

Each televovela has about 120 episodes and takes six months to complete. Mi Corazon Insiste's director is Leonardo Galavis. He says even though subtitles are sometimes offered, people who speak only English have not for the most part embraced telenovelas.

"Americans, they have a different culture, they have a different approach to television," said Galavis. "Their primetime shows are like series. For us we don't have series, we have soap-operas."

Nevertheless, telenovelas are often the most popular shows in America with young adults, a coveted demographic.

Kantar Media, a research company, says Hispanic TV advertising totaled $5.3 billion in 2010, up almost 11 percent from 2009 and outpacing growth in other types of commercials.

With the ability to produce programming in a hurry, Spanish-language networks appear happy to follow a formula that continues to pull in big audiences.