05/09/2012 08:25 am ET Updated Aug 17, 2012

Telenovelas Are The New Coveted Marketing Niche

Last week Telemundo premiered the first episode of their web-based telenovela "Mia Mundo". The three-minute long episode features characters driving Chevy and Chevrolet cars while using Verizon Wireless products. The requisite for product placement is quite obvious.

The series will run 13 three-minute weekly episodes following the life of Mia--which stands for stands for Modern Independent Achiever, the show's leading character.

Telemundo signed a deal with Chevy and Verizon Wireless to integrate their products in the telenovela.

Product placement in Telemundo telenovelas is not new.

"In recent years, product placement on Telemundo telenovelas has become far more prevalent,” writes R.G. Morin in his weekly column for ‘We Love Soaps.’ “The end credits of every episode of their telenovelas now cite their corporate compensation.”

But the marketing formula does something more than advertising cars and electronic gadgets. It confirms the rise of Spanish-language telenovelas in the U.S. as an important marketing niche.

"Much of the total TV output in the world is telenovelas," said Doug Darfield, senior vice president of multicultural measurement for the Nielsen ratings company according to Star Tribune.

In the United States, telenovelas are "far and away the most popular type of program among households who speak mostly Spanish," he said. The final episode of a telenovela gets ratings comparable to the Super Bowl, Darfield added.

In December 2011, the two-hour finale of Univision’s “La Fuerza del Destino” (“The Power of Destiny”) had 8 million viewers nationwide, more than any other network in its time slot, according to Mercury Mambo, a Hispanic Marketing Blog.

Network corporations have quickly caught onto this trend and are putting their bid in telenovelas.

Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that MundoFox, owned by News Corp.'s Fox International Channels was teaming up with Colombia's RCN Television SA to create a Spanish-language broadcast network for the U.S.

RCN is one of the largest exporters of Spanish-language television. The Colombian network is the creator of the hit-show "Betty La Fea", the Spanish-Language inspiration behind "Ugly Betty."

The new collaboration attempts to challenge Univision Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp’s NBC-Universal-Telemundo, according to WSJ.

“There is an increasing demand for quality Spanish-language content in the U.S. from both viewers and advertisers,” said Hernan Lopez, chief executive of Fox International Channels according to Portada-Online.

In the first nine months of 2011, U.S. ad spending on Spanish-language TV rose 7.4% from a year earlier, compared to broad TV ad outlays rose only 2.3%, according to Kantar Media, an ad-tracking unit of WPP PLC.

On the other hand, Spanish-language networks have turned to English to attract a wider growing audience of English-speakers.

Univision said earlier that all of its prime-time novela premieres this year will offer English closed captions.

While Telemundo has also offered English closed captions for years, the television network is pursuing a new type of show aimed at an increasingly bilingual audience.

Most of the web-based telenovela "Mia Mundo" will be in English with the bits of Spanish woven in, said Jacqueline Hernández, the chief operating officer of Telemundo, according to the NYTimes.

"Mia Mundo" is the “first-ever bilingual branded entertainment series.”

Reality stars Jenni Pulos from “Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis” and Gretchen Rossi from “The Real Housewives of Orange County” are also said to guest star in the new telenovela.

"Mia Mundo" is aiming to engage "to further engage viewers and Hispanics across the full-spectrum,” said Jacqueline Hernández, Chief Operating Officer, Telemundo Media.

Viewers will even be able to vote for how they want the show to end. The finale, based on the viewers choice, will air on Mun2, Telemundo’s cable network.

Clarification: The article previously stated “Mia Mundo” was the first Telemundo telenovela to have English closed captions. The article has been updated to reflect that Telemundo has offered telenovelas with english closed captions for many years but “Mia Mundo” is its first-ever bilingual branded entertainment series.

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