It seemed improbable, but it happened: TelevisaUnivision —the merger between the veteran Spanish-language television companies Televisa and Univision— has given its first blow of impact and audiences in the times of streaming and social networks with its own content, the reality show La Casa de The Famous Mexico. Gone are the days when Televisa managed to seat entire Mexican families in front of the television with Siempre en Domingo, the program of live musical presentations that Raúl Velasco hosted for almost 30 years, or with the children’s program En familia con Chabelo, for almost fifty years. But in the formula for success there are two elements: the emotional connection of the public —through euphoria, joy or moving tears— and the sense of identification with current taste —whether it’s Gloria Trevi breaking in with her attitude and irreverent songs for the time in the television studio or Wendy Guevara making people laugh in front of the screens with her cheeky, authentic and proven humor in the universe of social networks.
TelevisaUnivision has reported that the final of La Casa de los Famosos México on Sunday, August 13, 2023 was seen by 21 million people. This number is equivalent to around 16% of the population in Mexico, which is 129 million people according to Inegi. The gala on Sunday, August 6, in which the Mexican boxer and world champion La Barby Juárez was eliminated — kicked out of the house — had an audience of 15.4 million people, according to the television station. The one on Sunday, July 30, in which the actor of Spanish origin Jorge Losa was eliminated, was seen by 15.6 million people. To measure these figures: in the past World Cup in Qatar 2022, 251 million people watched the 32 soccer matches on TelevisaUnivision, which is equivalent to almost 8 million viewers per match. A popular reality show gala doubles this figure. Other television programs with a high audience are seen on average by between three and five million people, in their most successful broadcasts. For example, La Rosa de Guadalupe, the successful drama series based on miraculous stories, had around 3.5 million viewers per broadcast in November 2022, ranking it as “the most watched on open television,” according to TelevisaUnivision.
The trends in X (formerly Twitter) related to La Casa de los Famosos México, the videos of the controversial moments of the program and those that spread rumors about the alleged production plans in the order of those eliminated, as well as the conversations in chats and in spaces of daily life, both public and private, they showed the high degree of popularity of the broadcast, which on the Vix platform offered 24-hour transmissions from different spaces in the house. The euphoria of the public was lived outside the building, located in Huixquilucan (State of Mexico), where the followers of the famous inhabitants shouted messages of support. In the days leading up to the final on Sunday, August 13, balloons and drone light shows dedicated to the last entrants of the program were observed in the air.
In her debut on Siempre en Domingo in 1989, a twenty-something Gloria Trevi threatened to take the glasses off the show’s host, Raúl Velasco —in his fifties—, a risky bet for Mexican television in those years. “I’m not crazy, I’m desperate. I want to do many things, ”the singer told the presenter. “Like what?” he would reply. “How to dance, sing, how to take off your glasses,” she continued. “Take them off me. That way I don’t see and I get rid of temptations ”, answered Velasco. A romp on open television that provoked the public. At the same time, the figure of Trevi, with her irreverent lyrics and her catchy pop music, radiated an authenticity that audiences surrendered to in the studio and at home. A musical career was taking off. She put aside the sexual abuse network for which she would be accused years later, along with the music producer Sergio Andrade, for which she spent four years in prison.
Thirty-four years later, there are no more symbolic kicks from presenters that signify the endorsement of big media companies and the music industry to catapult a career. In the days of Raúl Velasco, Gloria Trevi needed Televisa and the television station needed her. The public fed this synergy. Today, the authentic and irreverent figures are within arm’s reach on the phone screen, among those considered influencers, and television yearns for that virality, misses its ecstatic audience, but the task becomes more complicated as the media traditional have been replaced by a more horizontal digital communication. That is why TelevisaUnivision has wanted to snatch a piece of success from social networks, and has achieved it at the hands of a trans actress, Wendy Guevara —30 years old—, famous on the networks from a video known as ‘Las perdidas’ in which she appears with her friend Paola Suárez lamenting between laughs because they are “lost on a hill”. Guevara has been the winner of La Casa de los Famosos México —with more than 18 million votes, according to the television station— and to the popularity formula is added a selection of participants from the reality show that spanned several generations: from the actor Emilio Osorio, a 20-year-old centennial, to the singer, actor and former congressman Sergio Mayer, a 57-year-old boomer.
Fate —or TelevisaUnivision itself— wanted Wendy Guevara and Gloria Trevi to coincide in the reality show for a few minutes. “Look, Gloria gave me a ring and she gave me a bracelet. We love Gloria Trevi in this house (…) Now I can die peacefully”, Wendy said before the cameras after the visit of the 55-year-old singer to the famous property. Trevi has become a symbol for the LGBT + community in Mexico in recent years and the trans actress was the first to run to hug her when she entered La Casa de los Famosos. Minutes after leaving the house with the first place in her hands, and the four million Mexican pesos that it includes (around $235,000), Wendy told a Vix program that before knowing her triumph, she did not stop kissing the ring in snake shape that Gloria Trevi gave her and that she was wearing as an amulet. The symbiosis of the digital world to the traditional medium has been total. The main host of the program’s broadcasts, Galilea Montijo, said during the final that 126 million people had voted to define the winner of the reality show. The number is equivalent, by a difference of three million, to that of the total population of Mexico, although it is clear that they were people voting more than once, a dynamic that allowed production.
There was no symbolic kick but it was not necessary. An ecstatic audience launched it with its digital screams on a Sunday, like the one on the Raúl Velasco program, and with a nightly celebration of dozens of people at the Ángel de la Independencia, in Mexico City, where the trans and LGBT+ shouting “Wendy, Wendy, Wendy!”.
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