A real-life soap opera in Spanish-language television -- a saga of family legacy, corporate ambition and allegations of treachery -- is expected to shift today to a federal courtroom in Los Angeles.

The civil trial will pit two titans against each other and bring to the witness stand key executives who are accustomed to controlling the media behind the scenes rather than fighting over it in open court. At stake is the future of the widely popular telenovelas, a steamy mix of sex, romance and family intrigue that has made the Spanish-language shows among the most popular and profitable on American airwaves.

Grupo Televisa of Mexico, the world's largest producer of telenovelas, four years ago sued longtime partner Univision Communications Inc. of New York for breach of contract, alleging it had been cheated out of more than $100 million in royalties.

More significantly, Televisa is seeking to terminate a 25-year programming contract with Univision.

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