The News Makes News at Telemundo

Mar 17, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Telemundo has always played Avis to Univision’s Hertz. But the second-largest Spanish-language network has taken a new tack under its savvy NBC ownership and is redefining itself to better compete with the much larger reach of Univision.
Telemundo is betting on a thirst for news and localism as the way to stake a wider claim in the exploding Hispanic TV scene. “We really want Telemundo to be a news and information company and we want localism to define us,” said Ramon Escobar, senior VP of news for Telemundo’s TV stations. “We are pursuing a hyperlocal strategy.”
The network has added newscasts at many of its 13 owned-and-operated stations in the past year. New York added 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts on weekends, Dallas added 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. news on weekends, and Puerto Rico went from 10 to 27 hours of news per week. In addition, Chicago, Houston and San Jose plan to add more weekend news hours in the next quarter.
Beefing up the local news operations is a crucial part of Telemundo’s corporate strategy to grow its market share, Mr. Escobar said.
Telemundo has added education, immigration and family issues beats at many of its stations to better serve the needs of its Spanish-speaking viewers. “We want people to associate us as a news and information company. We believe that’s a real place where we can distinguish ourselves from our competitor,” he said. “We also believe it should be based on being more local than our competitor, by establishing those beats and being out on the street.”
Telemundo is also adding new dimensions to its programming with coverage of the NBA, the Golden Globes and the 2004 Olympics in Spanish.
While it may be too early to judge the success of strategy, Telemundo’s and Univision’s prime-time ratings have remained consistent over the past year. According to the Nielsen Hispanic Television Index, Univision has generated an 18.7 rating and 30 share for the prime-time season-to-date, compared with a 20.2/32 for the same time last year. Telemundo has garnered a 4.9/8 for the season-to-date compared with a 5.4/8 last year. In adults 18 to 49, Univision has delivered a 9/28 while Telemundo has served up a 2.3/7 for the season-to-date.
Univision is available to 97 percent of Hispanic households and is the fifth-largest network overall, ahead of The WB and UPN. The network grew its advertising base during last year’s upfront from 100 to about 120 advertisers.
That strength comes largely from the tried and true Spanish-language programming model of prime-time novelas. Reality shows and gimmicks have little traction in this fairly stable programming universe. “The novela is the most powerful programming element there is in Spanish programming,” said a Univision spokesperson. “Everybody is looking for new, fresh programming ideas. The telenovela is a fresh new idea in the sense we have a new one every three to five months. The formula isn’t new, but it works.”
While product on Univision has remained constant during the past year, its sister cable network Galavision now carries several hours of live news daily from Mexico over Grupo Televisa. Galavision debuted a new programming schedule last May with exclusive, first-run Spanish-language programming and has grown 123 percent in prime time in adults 18 to 34 and 143 percent in adults 18 to 49 during the first quarter of this year compared with 2002, according to Univision.
Telefutura is also growing. Univision’s second Spanish-language network, launched last year, reaches 75 percent of Hispanic homes in the U.S. Telefutura carries the same type of programming as Univision, but it counter-programs Univision so that movies run on one network when novelas run on the other.
The three Univision networks are designed to complement each other. In prime time, Telefutura has grown 46 percent in adults 18 to 34 and 42 percent in adults 18 to 49 during the first quarter of this year compared with 2002, according to Univision. The network has captured a 1.2/4 in adults 18 to 49 for the season to date and is giving Telemundo a run for its second-place slot.
Telemundo, though, is betting on the distribution boost it will get from leveraging the resources of NBC Cable Networks. NBC is focused on packaging Telemundo with digital channel mun2 and its other cable networks to reach cable customers in markets where there is no Telemundo TV station. Introduced in 2001, mun2 targets young Hispanics.
In emerging Hispanic markets, such as North Carolina with a growing Hispanic population, NBC Cable Networks is developing a branding campaign to explain to less-assimilated Latinos the value of cable for them, said Mark Hotz, senior VP of marketing for NBC Cable Networks. “We can help penetrate the market with mun2 and other networks,” he said.
That’s a strategy that should pay dividends, said Howard Horowitz, president of research firm Horowitz Associates, which has studied the Hispanic market. “I think [NBC and Telemundo] are going to do extremely well,” he said.