By Leah Hochbaum

Across the world, programming trends change like seasons — a winter of comedy makes way for a dramatic springtime, which turns like the color of leaves into a reality-ridden summer or fall.

Telemundo’s Marcos Santana said telenovelas continue gaining popularity among Latins because they engender “audience loyalty for over six months [at a time], and the price-per-episode is lower than dramas and sitcoms produced in the U.S. and Europe.”

An American network targeting U.S. Hispanics, Telemundo recently launched Zorro: La Espada y La Rosa (Zorro: The Sword and the Rose), a 24-week novela adapted from a novel by Isabel Allende, that immediately found an audience. Co-produced by Sony Pictures Television International and RTI Colombia, Zorro is just one example of the company’s dedication to making, as Santana called them, “the favorite primetime shows of Latins.”

But Telemundo doesn’t just make telenovelas — it makes it easier for people to watch them. In November, Apple and Telemundo announced that popular Spanish-language programming from Telemundo, including shows from its Latino youth network mun2, are now available for purchase on the iTunes store. In addition, Telemundo is in the process of creating a new department that will develop strategies for the digital media world.

Miami-based Televisa Estudios is also delving into the digital media realm with its novelas. The company, which has the distinction of being the largest telenovela producer in the world, recently launched Televisa Digital, a division it hopes will develop and distribute an array of digital services, including video and music downloads, as well as interactive blogs. Yet while Televisa is branching out, the company’s bread and butter remains the same: telenovelas.

Claudia Silva, director of Marketing at Televisa, feels that the fact that the novela is gaining traction in regions such as Western Europe that have previously spurned telenovelas, attests to its strength. “Telenovelas are a very novel product,” she said. “They’re creating buzz in regions not traditionally populated by telenovela-watchers because they generate loyalty in viewers from Monday to Friday.” And that’s something broadcasters are smiling about.

To the hundreds of novelas on its roster, Televisa continually churns out new product, such as Reins of Love (Bajo Las Riendas Del Amor), about a rich, accomplished equestrian, which will be available for the first time at MIP-TV. In addition to traditional novelas for adults, the company’s recently found success with teen-oriented soaps, and is bringing two, Lola, Once Upon a Time (Lola, Erase Una Vez), about an orphaned girl working as a governess, and Muchachitas, about a group of friends from different social backgrounds, to MIP, as well.

Israel-based Dori Media Group is also benefiting from the rise of the telenovela, and operates two dedicated novela channels in the region — Viva and Viva Platina. “Just a few years ago when I said people in Germany would start watching telenovelas, they laughed at me,” said Dori chairman and CEO, Nadav Palti. “And today, people love novelas [there],” he continued.

“Telenovelas work globally,” said Palti. “It’s not like reality TV that sees a decrease in viewers each year. It’s a daily drama. It’ll only get bigger and bigger,” he predicted.

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