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An advertiser's dream: Sabado Gigante
The longest-running program in the history of television may be one of the reasons Univision will be attractive to buyers.
By Stephanie Mehta, FORTUNE senior writer

NEW YORK (FORTUNE) - Even if you don't speak Spanish, you've probably seen -- or at least heard of -- Sabado Gigante, the campy variety show that airs on Univision on Saturday nights.

An oddball mix of game show, skit comedy and musical entertainment, Sabado Gigante has become an emblem -- and icon -- of Spanish-language television: World leaders from President George W. Bush to Mexican President Vicente Fox have made campaign stops at Sabado Gigante's Miami studios; and a Saturday Night Live spoof of Latin television is clearly inspired by the show.

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What you probably don't know is that Sabado Gigante is the longest-running program in the history of television. Launched in Chile more than 42 years ago by an aspiring actor named Mario Kreutzberger, the program moved to the U.S. in 1986. The show is broadcast in more than 40 countries and Kreutzberger, better known as Sabado Gigante's gregarious host, "Don Francisco," easily is Hispanic television's best-known television personality.

Sabado Gigante also happens to be an advertiser's dream. Many of Univision's programs are supplied by Mexican television giant Grupo Televisa or Venezuelan operator Venevision. That means Univision can't capitalize on the product-placement craze of recent years, inserting say, Dell Computers or Coca-Cola cans in key scenes.

But Sabado Gigante is produced entirely for Univision (Research), and like the variety shows of the 1950s and 1960s, it isn't shy about promoting its sponsors heavily throughout the program itself. Don Francisco sometimes leads the audience in advertisers' jingles. For one sponsor pushing laundry detergent, Sabado Gigante wrote a skit about one of the regular characters trying to get a stain out of her shirt.

Programs such as Sabado Gigante may be one of the reasons Univision will be attractive to a U.S. media company looking to reach the fast-growing Hispanic market. (Earlier this month, Univision said it would consider selling the company. Possible buyers include private-equity companies, Univision partner Grupo Televisa and American media companies such as CBS Corp. (Research), Disney (Research), News Corp. (Research) and Time Warner (Research), parent of FORTUNE and CNNMoney.com.)

Forty years on, Sabado Gigante remains incredibly popular, attracting a remarkably young audience and garnering strong ratings. Click here for a look inside the popular show. Top of page

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