The Alma Awards Return, Bigger Than Ever

The ALMA Awards have been around for more than fifteen years, but they’ve never gotten quite the Big-Time Hollywood treatment they’ll be getting in 2011, as NBC takes them on for the first time and pulls out all the stops.

The Peacock Network, its new owner Comcast, and its new sister companies Telemundo and mun2 will all be presenting original programming around the 2011 ALMA Awards, culminating in an hour-long broadcast of the awards ceremony on Friday, September 16. The show will be co-hosted by long-time sponsor Eva Longoria and her old buddy George Lopez.

The ALMAs are part of the National Council for La Raza’s mission to “open doors and create greater opportunities for Latino families in the U.S.”  If the award structure resembles that of past years, there will be awards for theatrical films and television programs, both specials and series, as well as for actors in drama and comedy. We’ll get more details when the nominations for the September awards are released in the near future.

The biggest change/addition for this year is the crossing of the language barrier. Virtually all-Spanish Telemundo News will feature exclusive highlights, and host the official ALMA Awards web site, with original video content of its own (rehearsals, backstage stuff, red carpet coverage-that sort of thing). Mun2, which generally caters to a younger demographic and offers programming in both English and Spanish, will produce a two-hour special of its own as part of its weekly music variety show 18 & Over, including fashion news and music videos. Mun2 is even doing its own pre-awards show in the two hours before the ceremony.

“NBC, Telemundo, and mun2 will all be producing original programming around the 2011 ALMAS—a smart marketing move for the parent company, Comcast.”

It makes perfect sense in the larger context: Comcast/NBCUniversal has already made a major investment in the Hispanic market with the acquisition of Telemundo and mun2. The ALMAs, previously seen in a much smaller context on ABC, are a golden opportunity to address all the target markets they value so highly, Spanish- and English-speaking, with a tried-and-true format that makes everybody feel good.

(It would help, of course, if NBC had a decent number of Latinos in front of the cameras on its own network, but in fact the 2010-11 season was not a good one for the net. Two of their programs with the largest contingent of Latino actors, Law & Order: Los Angeles and The Event, were cancelled in their first seasons. one heavily Latino pilot, S.I.L.A, with Jimmy Smits, Danny Pino, Daniella Alonso, and Luis Chavez, didn’t make the cut. In fact, and Natalie Morales has been cut from the Chelsea Handler show before it even aired. Meanwhile, only two Latinos are joining the NBC line-up in the fall—Eddie Cibrian in Playboy, and Kirk Acevedo in the American remake of Prime Suspect—which doesn’t quite cover the loss of the five Latino roles lost in cancellation. It’s true that Wilmer Valderrama will be around at mid-season in REM and others may appear, but all in all NBC’s commitment to Latinos isn’t as strong as the home for the ALMA Awards might like to be.)

It will all be happening very quickly, as awards shows go. The ceremony is barley eight weeks away, and the release date of the nominations has yet to be announced. We’ll keep you posted…and you can follow along for yourself at www.almaawards.com or follow the show on Twitter at #almaawards.