You understand "telenovelas," and now it may be time to add the word "webnovela" to your vocabulary: Univision, the top network for Spanish-speaking viewers, announced Friday the launch of a new digital video network and three webnovels, a format already popular in much of Latin America.
Are webnovelas already a thing? Yes. Univision has offered them in recent years, including "Vidas Cruzadas (Crossed Lives)."
Like telenovelas, they are serialized stories characterized by cliffhanger endings, but ones that air online instead of TV. Two of Univision's new ones will star film and TV star Kate del Castillo (photo credit: Getty Images), who will also direct installments. The first is based on her best-selling book “Tuya” (“Yours”), and the second will be romantic comedy.
All three webnovelas will be produced exclusively for UVideos, Univision's new digital network. UVideos will feature all the video content from Univision’s television networks, and will be accessible via game consoles, smartphones, tablets and Internet-enabled TVs.
Univision Networks President Cesar Conde called webnovelas "a natural extension" from telenovelas, the dominant programming on Univision. He described them as "extremely sticky" online, in part because of the cliffhangers and because they feature some of the biggest stars in Hispanic media.
Univision made the announcements Friday ahead of the network's upfront presentation to advertisers in New York City on Tuesday. The network plans to announce a dozen new shows at its upfront.
Univision also said Friday that it will continue to air the Latin Grammys for a decade.
The announcements came four days after Univision and ABC News announced the launch of an English-language news, entertainment and lifestyle venture.
Univision is one of the top five networks in the U.S., and often beats at least one of the top four English-language networks in the 18-34 demographic. Its networks, which include Galavision and Telefutura, boast an extremely young median age of 36.
"As Univision celebrates its 50th anniversary, marketers are facing the stark reality of a rapidly evolving media landscape and consumer base that looks nothing like it did in years past," Univision president and CEO Randy Falco said in a statement. "Today, at least 20 percent of marketers’ target market is Hispanic, so what was once considered a niche is now an undeniable, mainstream growth opportunity. Over 50 years, one thing has remained the same – Latinos live here, at Univision."