Mexico's second largest broadcaster, TV Azteca, has launched a film and television production division, Azteca Cine, which has forged co-production deals with both Columbia TriStar International Television (CTIT) and the UK's Pearson Television.

Apart from supplying programming to TV Azteca, the new unit aims to feed upcoming US Hispanic television network Azteca America (ScreenDaily, September 11) and ride the new wave of interest in Mexican cinema, according to Azteca Cine director Jose Ignacio Suarez.

The agreement with CTIT includes co-production of two theatrical films a year over the next five years. "We have agreed to convene on January 31 next year to decide on our first two projects," said Suarez. Budgets per film will range between $800,000 and $1m.

TV Azteca and CTIT will also co-produce sitcoms and game shows following on from their collaboration on game show Best Friends and sitcom Una Familia Con Angel, a Mexican version of CTIT production Who's The Boss. "We are basically expanding our on-going relationship with TV Azteca," said CTIT Mexico general manager, Alexander Marin. CTIT will also have first option on international rights to telenovelas (Latino soap operas) that Azteca will produce.

In addition, TV Azteca and Pearson, part of Europe's RTL Group, have agreed to co-produce a slew of sitcoms, game shows and soaps. "This will be the first time that we will produce long-running soap operas in the tradition of General Hospital or The Young And The Restless. These differ from telenovelas which have a fixed number of episodes," Suarez said.