Some of the best Spanish-language television dramas delve into the ambitions and rancorous relationships within powerful Latino families, the Los Angeles Times reports.


Instead of playing each night on TV screens, though, this tale of a tumultuous 16-year marriage, fraught with allegations of treachery and bad faith, will begin to unfold this week in a federal courtroom in Los Angeles.


Grupo Televisa -- the Mexico City-based entertainment conglomerate that is the world's preeminent producer of sensational Spanish-language soap operas, or telenovelas -- claims in a suit filed three years ago that it has been cheated out of more than $100 million in royalties by its partner, Univision Communications Inc.

The trial is set to begin Tuesday, pitting Televisa's 40-year-old media scion Emilio Azcarraga Jean against Univision's new owners, led by Los Angeles billionaire Haim Saban, the company's chairman. Televisa is demanding that it be allowed to sever all ties with Univision, which has become the dominant Spanish-language broadcaster in the U.S. largely because it can run Televisa's popular programming.


"It comes down to who needs who more," said Julio Rumbaut, a Miami-based media consultant. "Televisa has a unique product that they just keep cranking out, and it works well on the West Coast, the East Coast and in Puerto Rico."


Last year, advertising generated by Televisa programming represented $538 million of Univision's overall $2.1 billion in net revenue. Univision paid Televisa license fees of approximately $145 million.


In court filings, Televisa alleges that Univision managers tried to conceal financial figures to frustrate Televisa executives and auditors as they tried to trace the money trail. Their behavior was so egregious, Televisa contends, that Televisa should be allowed to end its long-term programming agreement, which obligates the company to provide Univision with its wildly popular soap operas through December 2017.

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