PBS’s Latino drama gets 2nd window

Jan 7, 2002  •  Post A Comment

“American Family,” the Public Broadcasting System’s first-ever scripted Latino drama series, set to launch this month, has an agreement in principal to license a secondary broadcast window with the Spanish-language Telemundo Network.
The purpose of offering a secondary broadcast window of the drama, created by noted filmmaker Gregory Nava, is to reach the Spanish-language-dominant Hispanic American viewing market, said David Grant, president of Fox Television Studios. In operating like an independent boutique studio, Fox is providing production financing to series producer KCET-TV in Los Angeles and has turned to sister Fox distribution arm Twentieth Television to handle the licensing negotiations with Telemundo.
Because PBS does not offer a second audio channel (also known as SAP) for a dubbed Spanish-language version of the series, Mr. Nava’s El Norte Productions is said to have taken the lead in convincing PBS and KCET to license a secondary window for Telemundo. The original English-language version of “American Family” premieres in PBS’s 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. Wednesday time period on Jan. 23 for an initial 12-episode run, and talks are said to be centered on Telemundo’s running the dubbed Spanish-language version three months later.
“Everyone at PBS, particularly [President and CEO] Pat Mitchell, has been very supportive of the concept of broadening the reach of `American Family’ to a Spanish-language audience who wouldn’t otherwise have access to [an] English-language version of the show,” Mr. Grant said. “It really is part of PBS’s mission statement in reaching the broadest audience, be it pro-social, educational [or] entertainment programming.”
An El Norte spokesman, speaking on behalf of Mr. Nava, said, “In order to really properly reach out and cover the Spanish-language audience, we really wanted to have a U.S.-based Spanish-language broadcaster like Telemundo to come in as a partner on the series.” Representatives of Tele-mundo were unreachable to discuss the status of the licensing talks.
Mr. Grant said he doesn’t consider a second run of the show to be repurposing. “If you are talking about reaching a Spanish-language audience, that’s a whole new and separate audience. So how can that be considered repurposing?” Mr. Grant said.
In any event, the secondary licensing deal between English- and Spanish-language broadcasters is somewhat unorthodox-in keeping with the groundbreaking public/private effort being undertaken for PBS’s “American Family.” As a nonprofit broadcaster, PBS has turned to packaged-goods giant Johnson & Johnson as a principal corporate sponsor in addition to getting other public financing from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Upfront production financing came from Fox Television Studios, which is also partnered with Greenblatt Janollari Studio on “American Family.”
Mr. Grant acknowledged that the secondary licensing deal with Telemundo in addition to international sales of “American Family”-particularly in Latin America-could help in covering production deficits and possibly return a profit on the show, which costs an estimated $1 million-plus per episode. He also said international sales being handled by 20th Century Fox Television International are in the “early stages,” but Mr. Grant expects that overseas broadcasters will give the “finished product” more thorough consideration at the L.A. Screenings marketplace in May.
“Everybody involved in this pitched in to do [“American Family”] different than a standard network TV series packaged for prime time” on commercial broadcast networks, Mr. Grant said. “Even with all of us pitching in and this being an unusual private/public venture, we might make money in success, but that is not the driving force here.”
The series, which revolves around a multigenerational Hispanic family in East Los Angeles, will be shot in high definition.