EXCLUSIVE: Fox Television Studios is developing an English-language adaptation of Telemundo’s blockbuster 2011 telenovela La Reina del Sur (The Queen of the South). In his TV debut, feature producer David T. Friendly (Little Miss Sunshine), who brought the project to FtvS, will executive produce.

Based on the bestselling book of the same by Arturo Perez-Reverte, La Reina Del Sur centers on Teresa Mendoza, an innocent young girl from a small Mexican village, whose desire to avenge a personal tragedy leads her down a path to become the most powerful woman in the dangerous world of narcotics trafficking in Europe.

La Reina Del Sur was Telemundo’s most expensive telenovela ever with a budget of $10 million and became the highest-rated program in the Spanish-language network’s 19-year history, averaging nearly 4.2 million total viewers, and more than 2.8 million viewers adults 18-49. Its May 30, 2011 series finale was the No.1 broadcast program of the night, of any language. And last year, Telemundo launched its first-ever Primetime Emmys campaign for La Reina Del Sur.

La Reina Del Sur is not a typical telenovela, with critics noting that is feels closer to Breaking Bad than One Life To Live. It will be developed as a one-hour largely serialized crime drama, said Fox TV Studios president David Madden. FtvS is primarily a cable player with series like Burn Notice and The Killing, so La Reina Del Sur, which Madden describes as being “darker, more violent than ABC’s Missing or Revenge“, will be aimed at cable but not exclusively. “I could see it run on Showtime or FX, but I can also see an ABC version of the show,” he said. If FtvS goes a broadcast route, it will not be via a traditional broadcast model that its sibling 20th Century Fox TV specializes in but a variation of the template the company used for recent straight-to-series broadcast series such as The Good Guys and The Gates. Search is under way for a writer to pen the adaptation.

The La Reina Del Sur deal “came out of FtvS’ efforts to find more material out of Spanish-speaking countries and produce more content for Spanish-speaking audiences,” Madden said. It’s part of a larger strategy of targeting Latino audiences by News Corp., which recently announced that it will be launching a Spanish-language broadcast TV network.