Video: Steamy TV import

updated 5/17/2006 6:07:59 PM ET 2006-05-17T22:07:59

How do you say love in Mandarin? Gustavo Cisneros is finding out. His company, The Cisneros Group, is the largest shareholder in Spanish language powerhouse Univision, where soap operas, known as telenovelas, dominate in the ratings.

Now Cisneros is exporting the money making format all over the world — even to China.                   

“We think it’s going to be one of our largest growth opportunities. We do the dubbing of course in Mandarin and it works, it works very well and we have very good ratings,” says Cisneros.

With 1.4 billion potential viewers he says the opportunities in China are greater than Latin America and second to only the United States. The format is becoming so successful, now American networks are all planning experiments with telenovelas for the English speaking audience. NBC is reportedly adapting its popular Telemundo novella “El Cuerpo de Deseo” or “The Body of Desire,” for English this summer.

( is a joint venture of NBC Universal and Microsoft.)

Will it translate? Cisneros thinks so. He has distributed them in more than 100 countries and into 34 different languages. “While Hollywood is all about the lives we won’t ever lead, telenovelas are about ordinary people and ordinary lives. The telenovela is about how we cry, how we make love, how we make peace, how we improve our lives. But it is us. It is our family, its our friends, the friends of our friends,” says Cisneros.

He ought to know.  He has made billions in the media world. Forbes says he is the third richest man in Latin America and is worth an estimated five billion dollars. While he also owns supermarkets, restaurant chains and beverage and mining companies throughout Latin America, his first love is television, which is what led him to buy a big stake in Univision back in 1992. Univision is now up for sale, and he won’t talk about whether he will stay a seller, or maybe a buyer. But, he firmly believes that there is growth in the market.

“The Hispanic market in the U.S. is already bigger than the whole economy of Spain, except it is growing at twice the rate of the economy of Spain,” says Cisneros.  “And it is growing three times as fast as the U.S. economy, so in fact you have Chinese like numbers in the U.S. with Hispanics.”

That’s another reason why the English language networks are trying to cash in on the format, hoping to lure that growing audience with a Latin love affair.

© 2012 CNBC, Inc. All Rights Reserved


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