Nely Galan, a fixture in Hispanic media, must own a crystal ball. Or, she just knows her business inside out. After working for and with names such as Telemundo, Fox, and HBO, with her own Galan Entertainment she's now capitalizing on Hispanic crossover potential she long anticipated.
In September, HBO tapped Galan Entertainment to produce a series of 90- to 120-second segments of bilingual content for mobile phone distribution in the United States. The first series, La Traductora [The Translator] is a mini-novela, following a character, Carmen, and her daughter, Maribel. Depending on its success, Galan may look at more work on the small scale.
"We're taking a breather and then figuring out how many more [we need to produce]," Ms. Galan says. "It's such a new medium. HBO is doing it and then they're going to focus groups to get feedback."
On a larger screen, Galan Entertainment signed a first-look development deal with NBC Universal in 2006 to produce telenovelas, in English, for its networks. As part of the deal, Telemundo will license all of its formats to Galan to re-develop into English, the same way other producers have brought La Fea Mas Bella to life as Ugly Betty.
The first production, Body of Desire, is the story of a 60-year-old man who dies on his wedding night but comes back in a younger man's body to reclaim his bride. Ms. Galan says the program, based on El Cuerpo del Deseo, could launch by this summer, and while it's being developed for NBC, it could find a home on the USA Network.
"Clearly, if we look at TV, most of it comes from foreign formats, and the untapped portion of that was the Latin market," Ms. Galan says.
Since her start at age 22 as a station manager for the first Telemundo station in New York, Ms. Galan says she has always seen the crossover market as an untapped resource.
She wanted to produce content for the Hispanic audience, but was stifled by the dearth of opportunities. "[It was a] humbling experience, being ahead of the curve," she says of her early days. "I wanted more from my market than was available.
"It has been a slow progression over the last 10 years," she continues. "Little successes along the way – everything from Eva Longoria on Desperate Housewives, and now Ugly Betty. Before that, it was little baby steps. Now we're at this place where if you don't do the Latino thing, you're missing out. It takes a long time for rest of the world to catch up."
And, with the backing of Telemundo, Ms. Galan feels optimistic about the future of crossover, and grateful to the network for giving her a strong foundation.
"I feel like I've been pioneering in an area, and it makes you cut through. It sets you apart.
"The key to my success is that I have worked for four billionaires," she says. "They have taught me certain lessons that I share with people: Never live beyond my means; reinvest in real estate; life is a long-distance run, it takes perseverance and staying power [they work hard into their 50s, 60s, and 70s]; and, I'm not entitled. I don't deserve anything."
This self-reliance also has been key in being a single mother of a 6-year-old son.
"I believe that for women, to me, the best way to have a family and a career is to be an entrepreneur," she says. "I have more flexibility than a big corporation.
"More women are starting businesses than getting married," she adds. "Fifty percent of them are Latinas. When I'm done working, I want to spend the rest of my life training women to be entrepreneurs – I really think making your own money and being responsible for your own creation works the muscle of your brain. If I ended up in Russia, I couldn't speak the language, but I could start a business. It's a gift."
Her gifts don't end there. On top of the HBO and NBC deals, Ms. Galan is launching two new shows in 2007. The first is an untitled celebrity makeover show, slated for the first quarter. The second, titled The New You, will be a weekday wellness/beauty program expected to launch in the fall.
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