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Don Francisco returns to TV — but on Telemundo

Sabado Gigante host Mario Kreutzberger, better known as Don Francisco, taping the final episode of the show, which aired Sept. 19. Telemundo announced Tuesday that Kreutzberger has signed on to a multi-year agreement with the company to develop a joint production company and lead a series of high-profile interviews.
Sabado Gigante host Mario Kreutzberger, better known as Don Francisco, taping the final episode of the show, which aired Sept. 19. Telemundo announced Tuesday that Kreutzberger has signed on to a multi-year agreement with the company to develop a joint production company and lead a series of high-profile interviews. El Nuevo Herald

Spanish TV’s longtime icon is changing camps: Don Francisco is taking his talents to Telemundo, where he will develop a joint production company and serve as special senior news correspondent on the Telemundo Network News.

The Spanish-language channel announced Tuesday morning that Don Francisco, whose real name is Mario Kreutzberger, signed a multi-year agreement with the company. The news came six months after the cancellation of his record-breaking Saturday night variety show, Sabado Gigante, on competitor network Univision.

“This has given me the opportunity to do something a little different than what I used to do, to develop new concepts. For me, it’s an opportunity to develop new talents,” Kreutzberger said.

The former Sabado host will develop and produce content for U.S. and international Hispanic audiences, across multiple platforms, in his role with the production company, according to a release.

I have been a very stable person — I was with Univision for 30 years. Therefore for me, it was very difficult to make this decision.

Mario Kreutzberger, known by his stage name Don Francisco.

Kreutzberger will also bring some of his expertise interviewing world leaders — he interviewed top political figures, including President Barack Obama and former president George W. Bush during his 53-year career with Sabado — to his new role.

In a special report segment with Telemundo Network News, Kreutzberger will lead a series of high-profile interviews and continue his legacy of interviewing U.S. presidents at the start and end of their terms, as well as both presidential nominees.

Before the end of the year, Kreutzberger said he hopes to interview President Obama and whomever the Republican and Democratic nominees are. The network has not yet set Kreutzberger’s start date, but he expects to be on the show’s news program before the year’s close.

In his five decades on Sabado Gigante, Kreutzberger cemented his position as an icon in the Hispanic community. Sabado Gigante holds the Guinness World Record for the longest-running TV show in history.

I have accompanied many families who grew up [watching

Mario Kreutzberger, known by his stage name Don Francisco.

But the decision to take a role at Telemundo didn’t come easily. Kreutzberger said he deliberated for some time before accepting the job, ultimately deciding in favor of Telemundo’s growing presence in the Hispanic TV arena.

Earlier this month, NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises announced it would build new headquarters in Doral near Dolphin Mall, consolidating each of its locales — in Hialeah, Medley, Miami Springs and Coral Gables — under one roof. The company has been working to edge out Univision with high ratings on its high production value telenovelas. The broadcasting company also outbid Univision for the rights to broadcast the FIFA World Cup in 2018, 2022 and 2026.

Most of all, Kreutzberger said he looks forward to giving his fans what they’ve been asking for — his return to TV.

“They always ask me, ‘When are you going to come back?’ ” Kreutzberger said. “For me it has been very emotional to receive that level of affection.”

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