Spanish language 'Sabado Gigante' ends 53-year run

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

MIAMI (AP) — Television's longest-running variety show is calling it a wrap after 53 years.

The Miami-based Univision network said Friday the popular "Sabado Gigante" will end its weekly broadcast on Sept. 19.

Created by its Chilean-born host, the boisterous presenter with a huge grin known as Don Francisco, the weekly three-hour show "Sabado Gigante" long has been Univision's most popular program.

With an average of 2.2 million viewers, the show remains No. 1 on Saturday nights among Hispanics in the U.S. and was up this season among younger viewers, according to the Nielson company. The show also is broadcast to more than a dozen countries throughout Latin America.

Univision did not say why it was ending "Sabado Gigante," nor what kind of programming will fill its slot. The network said Don Francisco, whose real name is Mario Kreutzberger, will continue to work on special programs and a telethon that has raised hundreds of millions of dollars over the years to benefit disabled children.

The details of the decision will be revealed by Kreutzberger on the broadcast this Saturday, according to a network spokesperson who was not authorized to be quoted by name.

A Univision executive who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak for Kreutzberger said the host had decided it was time to end the show, and to end it with the closing of the broadcast season.

"Sabado Gigante," which means "Giant Saturday" in English, aired for the first time in Chile in 1962, and moved to Miami in 1986.

The variety show mixing humor, amateur talent contests, celebrity interviews and human-interest stories went on to become a weekly staple for many Hispanic families in the United States, sometimes with several generations gathered around the television set on Saturday evenings.

Guests have included Hispanic artists such as Enrique Iglesias, Shakira, Paulina Rubio and Gloria Trevi, and U.S. presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Latin American politicians also have appeared on the program.

In a release from the network, Alberto Ciurana, president of Programming and Content for Univision Communications, Inc., called the 74-year-old Kreutzberger "one of the most beloved and legendary entertainers in the world" and an "innovative and inspirational force in the television industry throughout his career."

"We join Mario's fans in wishing him all the best as he enters his next chapter," Ciurana said.

Kreutzberger, who long has divided his time between Chile and Miami to produce the program, thanked the show's viewers for their "support, loyalty and enthusiasm."

He said his fans had "allowed the show to become an unprecedented success in the history of this medium."


AP Television Writer David Bauder contributed to this report from New York.