Spanish-language network Univision and teenage-girl-language network The CW each made history Thursday, with Univision introducing the most new shows in its history, and The CW the least.
The strategy at Univision, which unveiled 11 new programs, seems clear: The network is giving itself a makeover as part of a major marketing offensive in a year in which it hopes to attract throngs of new viewers with the World Cup soccer tournament and throngs of new advertisers when U.S. census results reveal a boom in the Hispanic population.
Much murkier is the thinking at The CW, which introduced only two new series. While such a move might mean "stability'' at most TV networks, The CW's target audience of females aged 13 to 34 may prefer the dreaded word "old."
The CW and Univision made their announcements in New York on the final day of the so-called upfronts, the meetings in which broadcast networks give affiliates a look at their fall schedules.
The CW's two new shows are Hellcats, starring Disney Channel alums Aly Michalka and Ashley Tisdale as members of a college cheerleading squad, and Nikita, with martial-arts idolette Maggie Q (at right) as a CIA assassin gone good.
The latter continues the weird afterlife of La Femme Nikita, a cynical 1990 spy film by French director Luc Besson that was loathed by critics and audiences in its home country but acquired a cult following in the United States. It's been remade as a big-budget American action thriller with Bridget Fonda, as a darkly conspiratorial series that lasted five seasons on the USA cable network, and now as a teenage superhero show.
To make room for Hellcats and Nikita, The CW canceled its soap remake Melrose Place and a handful of virtually unwatched reality shows including Blonde Charity Mafia, Fly Girls and High Society. (Another reality show, about couples losing weight for their weddings, is being held in reserve as a midseason replacement.) It also announced that the upcoming 10th season of its Superman's-boyhood series Smallville will be the last.
If The CW seemed to be playing a conservative hand of programming cards, Univision was shoving all its chips into the game. Though it's the top-rated Spanish-language network, Univision is rebuilding most of its schedule, with five new daily telenovelas and six weekly series.
"This is a very important time for us and for our advertisers," Univision's chief executive officer Joe Uva told The Miami Herald by telephone from New York. "Between the World Cup and the census, we are starting a 12-month period that may be the most important year in the history of the U.S. Hispanic community."
In hopes of permanently capturing some of the millions of new viewers who tune in for its telecasts of all 64 World Cup matches -- plus advertisers enticed by census data on the Hispanic boom -- Univision is significantly broadening its programming beyond its staple novelas.
Its three new reality show are led by Mira Quien Baila(Look Who's Dancing), which has, network programming boss Cesar Conde says, "the three things Hispanics love most -- music, dancing and celebrities." Desafio: La Gran Batalla (The Challenge: The Big Battle) is a cross between Survivor and The Great Race, and the title of shopping-spree Llevatelo Todo (Grab It All) is pretty self-explanatory.
Univision's other new weekly series include the drama Cuna de Lobos (Cradle of Wolves), a reworking of a wildly popular 1980s novela about a murderous corporate wife that stars Cuban-born hunk William Levy; the comedy Los Exitosos Perez (The Successful Perezes) about a mutually unfaithful married couple, and El Gran Show, a combination variety and game show.
The network's new slate of novelas includes the first entry from its own studio (a co-production with Venezuela's Venevision): Eva Luna, whose heroine is an advertising executive who suspects her boyfriend murdered her father. Zacatillo, Un Lugar en Tu Corazon (Zacatillo, A Place In Your Heart) is also built around crime: a famous actress fleeing a killer.
More traditional novelas include the rags-to-riches Mar de Amor (Sea of Love) and the ugly-duckling tale Llena de Amor (Big on Love). And Soy tu Duena (You Belong To Me) is a romance powered by Mexican novela superstars Fernando Colunga and Lucero.