Univision, Telemundo Battle Over Competing Music Biopics

Univision, Telemundo Battle Over Competing Music Biopics

Why the two leading Latin TV networks are going head-to-head with shows about the same music stars airing at the same time

Late in 2016, Mark Burnett was asked to produce the official life story of reclusive Mexican superstar Luis Miguel. During 30 hours of interviews, Miguel related a tale so rich in detail that Burnett shopped the project to rival Spanish-language networks Univision and Telemundo, with the latter winning a bidding war to air it.

Not to be deterred, Univision then asked Miguel’s longtime video director, Pedro Torres, to do a bio series of its own to compete against Telemundo’s production.

Now, Miguel’s story is the latest battleground in the decades-old rivalry between Univision and Telemundo, long the No. 1 and No. 2 Spanish-language networks in the United States, respectively, as they fight for viewers. And increasingly, that competition has focused on biographical series about the biggest music stars in the Latin world.

In 2015, Telemundo first realized the opportunity in musical bio projects when it aired Celia, a series based on the life of the late Celia Cruz. Its success led Telemundo to pursue the U.S. rights to Hasta Que Te Conocí, a series based on the life of Juan Gabriel, which debuted the following year to an average of 2.9 million viewers and became the highest-rated weekend scripted series ever on Spanish-language TV, pushing Telemundo above Univision in the ratings for 11 straight weeks, according to Nielsen.