MIAMI (AP) – After receiving a standing ovation from his emotional audience, Don Francisco, the popular host of "Sabado Gigante," tried to explain why television's longest-running show is coming to an end.
Created by its boisterous host, the weekly three-hour show, which means "Giant Saturday" in English, has long been Univision's most popular program. But on Friday, the Spanish-language channel announced the last "Sabado Gigante" show would be Sept. 19.
"As many of you know, yesterday Univision announced that after 53 years on the air, our program will close at the end of this season," Francisco said Saturday to his audience, some of them in tears.
"This 'Sabado Gigante' allowed all of us who work here to fulfill impossible dreams, and it is the time to end this story with dignity, at the best level ... and with the highest ratings. We are second, first, third nationally every week. Times have changed, we know that, and because of that we need to look for new challenges," he added.
"To us, I reiterate, this is not a moment of sadness. On the contrary, this is a moment of triumph," the Chilean-born Francisco said.
With an average of 2.2 million viewers, the show remains No. 1 on Saturday nights among Hispanics in the United States and was up this season among younger viewers, according to the Nielsen company. The show also is broadcast to more than a dozen countries throughout Latin America.
Francisco, whose real name is Mario Kreutzberger, noted that Saturday's show was the 1,510th edition of the show in the United States and the 2,756th in total. The Miami-based show started in Chile and moved to the United States in 1986.
As he has done since the start, Francisco closed his opening monologue asking with great enthusiasm, "What does the audience say!?" They responded, cheering and singing "Sabado Gigante's" theme song.
"Now, everyone to work. We are not on vacation. We have to entertain our audience, we have to make people have a good time, laugh, cry, sing, dance. We still have a few weeks ahead of us, 22 more," he said.