There’s precedent for English telenovelas. Ask Billy Crystal.
I have to disagree with your column asserting that Fox’s My Network TV is an all-or-nothing gamble (Harry A. Jessell, At Large, Feb. 27). First, those Fox duopoly stations that cover 24% of the U.S. could be very profitable as independents should Fox II go south.
Second, I am sure that in the affiliate deals Roger Ailes is shopping, there are clauses allowing him to dump and replace failed shows without losing the station affiliation. Having negotiated, and then re-negotiated a contract with Roger, I can tell you that he does not miss a trick.
Third, although the 18-34 portion of the Nielsen panel tends to be unreliable, we do have some evidence that the age group sticks around for the novellas—at least in Spanish—and the young are fairly likely to be bilingual, at least enough to enjoy TV in English as well as Spanish. It really depends on how compelling these 13-week dramas are. If they suck, well, you know the rest.
There is a precedent for the limited run series, and I am not talking just about PBS, HBO and Showtime.Remember Soap. If you don’t, Billy Crystal will be happy to fill you in. Also, as I recall, this is not the first time that Fox tried distributing a soap. Rituals was a short-lived entry in early fringe on the Fox stations back around 1990 or so. American TV has never embraced the limited-run format because the economics of episodic series almost always overshadowed it. If you get an appointment TV hit, you are all set, and you have a back end. Soaps, even hits like Dallas and Knots Landing, do not have a back end.
European and Latin American TV does not depend on syndication for a lot of revenue, and until the past 10 years, most of the competition in those markets was limited. In other words, there were not a lot of choices for the viewer. Accordingly, a cheaper to produce limited-run novela was more viable. It is only in the past decade that the production values of the Televisa-produced novelas have come up to world standards. The stuff from Globo in Brazil is still awful to look at.
I am sure that there will be lots more to say about it between now and September. Meanwhile, as the ancient Chinese curse you quoted goes, “May you live in interesting times.”
New York City