Telemundo attacks rivals with ‘hyperlocal’ news

May 27, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Since NBC purchased Telemundo for $2.7 billion last year, much attention has been paid to upgrading, refocusing and promoting the station group’s local newscasts, and the push has paid off with significant ratings growth in five major markets where there are NBC-Telemundo duopolies.
In New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and Dallas, “All of them have had great stories,” said James McNamara, president and CEO of Telemundo, which had long been written off as the distant also-ran to still-dominant Univision in the competition for 35.3 million Spanish-language viewers in the United States.
A spokesperson for Univision, citing National Hispanic Station Index overnight data for the May sweeps, said, “Univision’s O&O stations in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Chicago and San Antonio maintained their longstanding dominance in all the important local news arenas in their respective markets.”
But Telemundo’s May story is one of gaps that were narrowed and in one case even reversed. In Miami, NBC’s WTVJ-TV finished No. 1 in the 11 p.m. race with a 7.1 rating/12 share-its largest margin of victory in five years-and sister Telemundo station WSCV-TV finished No. 2 with a 6.2/11, according to Nielsen Station Index data. The double-digit year-to-year-growth put WSCV ahead of Univision-owned WLTV-TV at 11 p.m. for the first time ever.
“It’s all converging,” said Don Browne, the WTVJ president and general manager who had designed the station’s recently opened studios with a Spanish-language component in mind. “We’re already synergizing.”
In New York, where Univision’s WXTV-TV has outdrawn some English-language stations for some time, WXTV notched the largest year-to-year viewership growth-62 percent-of any station in the market.
Still, even though Telemundo’s WNJU-TV is lacking a full-power transmitter after Sept. 11, not to mention a news director, the station’s late news grew 24 percent year to year (vs. 1 percent growth for WXTV), and morning news was up 3 percent (and the total day was up 11 percent).
In Los Angeles, the only market in which demographic data is available in an overnight sample, Telemundo’s KVEA-TV gained ground on Univision’s KMEX-TV among adults 18 to 49, growing 53 percent to a 4.6 rating in the demo year to year, while KMEX eroded 24 percent to a 5.3, according to Nielsen Hispanic Station Index data.
In Dallas, Telemundo switched from affiliate KFWD-TV to owned-and-operated KXTX-TV in the last year and launched news on April 1. KXTX’s infant news outdrew Univision-owned KUVN-TV 13 times during the May sweeps and has improved its time slots year to year by 284 percent at 5 p.m. and 500 percent at 10 p.m. In Chicago, NHSI data shows Telemundo’s WSNS-TV (which has a new news director) up year to year at 5 p.m. by 14 percent and up at 10 p.m. by 45 percent (in the latter time slot Univision’s WGBO-TV showed year-to-year erosion of 9 percent).
In these markets, Telemundo stations have gone “hyperlocal” said Ramon Escobar, the MSNBC programming executive who has been involved in integrating Telemundo and its news operations into NBC.
“They have gone in and repositioned themselves as the community station of choice,” he said, by focusing on issues such as immigration, health and community events.