A lot has changed in the year since Azteca America last held an upfront event. For proof, look no further than the highlight of the Spanish-language network’s new upfront slate, which was unveiled at tonight’s event in New York: El Muro (The Wall), a new drama set on the U.S.-Mexico border.
And unlike NBC’s game show of the same name, which has nothing to do with President Trump’s controversial campaign promise, Azteca America’s upcoming series will delve into issues at the heart of the immigration debate.
El Muro will be the first U.S.-produced original scripted series from the network, which is wholly owned by Mexico’s TV Azteca. The show, which should air early next year, is a love story between an undocumented immigrant and the immigration officer in charge of her deportation.
“Everybody talks about the border as though it was just a line on a map,” said Manuel Abud, Azteca America’s president and CEO. “But there are border towns, and there’s already a wall there: a cultural wall, that is the drama that these families live every day. We thought this was a great setup for developing a U.S. drama that is compelling, emotional and touches a real nerve with our audience.”
The 50-episode series will have one central storyline, which will be split into 10 separate stories, told over 5 episodes each week.
The network, which gets much of its programming from TV Azteca, had been looking for a U.S.-produced series. “I always get pushback from clients and advertisers that they want more relevance to U.S. Hispanics,” said Abud. “This was the perfect opportunity to have a show that is going to have high production values, is going to be very sensitive to the current situation and we hope is going to be a great success.”
The network’s other new scripted series is El Manicomio (Mental Hospital), a thriller about a reporter who investigates the mysterious death of her grandmother in a psychiatric hospital. That show, like much of the network’s programs, is produced in Mexico.
For the third straight year, Azteca America will be the exclusive U.S. Spanish-language broadcaster of the Miss Universe competition. The property has “great potential,” which has been given “new life” after Trump sold it to talent agency and entertainment company WME-IMG, said Abud. “They’re doing a great job in reestablishing it as more than just a beauty pageant.”
OTT and programmatic plans
During the upfront event, Craig Geller, evp, network sales and digital, will speak to buyers about the network’s new programming advertising and OTT initiatives.
Azteca America is partnering with programmatic video ad platform Videology, becoming the first Hispanic network to use the platform and offer programmatic advertising. “We believe that the inventory that we produce is going to light up and connect with advertisers as they’re looking to place their media money,” said Geller.
Its other partnership, with cloud video distribution service Zype, will finally give the network an OTT presence. Geller said the OTT platform won’t just mirror what is on the Azteca America. “We want to look at the library of content and the opportunities we have that extend beyond the linear channel, and recognize that today, Aztec America is not just a broadcast channel, but a media company,” said Geller.
The Zype partnership will give Azteca access to connected TV devices like Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire. “That’s critically important to us, to make sure we have the greatest amount of distribution and exposure of our high-quality content,” said Geller. While the app will initially be free, Azteca could launch a subscription video on demand offering in the future.
Azteca America’s New York presentation, held at The Times Center, is the first of five upfront events taking place across the country. The others will be held in Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas and for the first time this year, Miami, where the network added a new station, WGEN, which it calls Azteca Miami. That upfront stop will also serve as WGEN’s official launch party.