Anglo Stations Get Hip in N.Y.

Jun 23, 2003  •  Post A Comment

New York’s English-language television outlets are aggressively proclaiming “Hablamos Espa ‘ol” as they seek their slice of the market’s growing Hispanic population, now totaling an estimated 1.1 million Latino TV households, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Entering the fray are Time Warner Cable’s NY1 News, the 10-year-old New York City all news channel, which debuts a Spanish spinoff, NY1 Noticias, June 30 on its digital television channel 801, and WPIX-TV, Tribune Broadcasting’s WB affiliate, which on Feb. 3 became the first English-language station in the city to introduce a simultaneous Spanish interpretation for its 10 p.m. newscast using the second audio program (SAP) channel.
The move is WPIX’s second to romance this audience, which represents 11.3 percent Hispanic TV homes, having started its lovefest in October 2000 by offering Spanish-language voice-track versions of two Warner Bros. TV off-net sitcoms, “Friends” and “Suddenly Susan.” Today, the station offers six off-net sitcoms in Spanish, plus its bilingual “The WB11 News At Ten,” totaling 51/2 hours or 23 percent of its typical weekday schedule in Spanish. The other Spanish-translated sitcoms are “Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” “Dharma & Greg,” “Will & Grace” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.” “My Wife and Kids” joins the roster in fall 2005.
The move by Anglo stations in The Big Apple to compete against powerhouse Univision, its second broadcast network TeleFutura, its Galavision cable sports network; NBC-owned Telemundo, its mun2 bilingual cable outpost and the struggling Azteca America broadcast chain, has added competitive excitement to this market of multicultural Hispanics.
The New York DMA, in which the 2000 U.S. Census reported an estimated 3.75 million Hispanic residents-18.6 percent of the area’s population-is the nation’s second-largest Spanish-language TV market behind Los Angeles.
If WPIX has been broadcasting Spanish translations for off-net titles since October 2002, why did it wait until this year to introduce a Spanish interpretation for its Emmy-winning 10 p.m.-to-11 p.m. news? “It took us a while to find a translation partner,” said Betty Ellen Berlamino, the station’s VP/general manager since December 2000. “After we found Caption Colorado we were finally able to say it’s time.” Ms. Berlamino said the station used the company-owned Spanish daily “Hoy” to economically promote its SAP program. “If we had used Spanish radio, television and a competing newspaper a couple of years ago, it would [have] been very costly.”
While Ms. Berlamino admits the station has no idea how many people are tuning in the SAP simulcast, she does know WPIX “is an alternative to Univision and Telemundo’s 11 p.m.-to-11:30 p.m. newscasts for people who want to watch a 10 o’clock news.”
Exulted the executive: “The 10 p.m. news covers events in the Hispanic community for a highly assimilated population who have been here a long time and speak Spanish and English. This is not an immigrant city like Los Angeles, where people often don’t speak English.”
Obtaining a Spanish simulcast is a complex matter. The connection with Caption Colorado in Greenwood, Colo., stretches to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where three interpreters, not translators, work out of a studio in the Caption Colorado office. Lindsay Polumbus, an account executive in the Colorado headquarters, explained that the company uses interpreters (with neutral accents), not translators, because “translators translate the written word while interpreters translate the spoken word.”
WPIX sends a copy of the script over the Internet several hours before the broadcast. Then, according to Ms. Polumbus, the actual audio feed is sent to Argentina on an ISDN high-quality phone line and then transmitted through a co-decoder at the station. “The interpreters work in a sound booth with high-quality microphones and earphones through which they hear the broadcast,” she said. “Argentina is two hours ahead of New York, so it’s midnight when the interpreters are speaking through the mike, which is connected to the ISDN line, which goes back to the station’s decoder and is hooked into the live outgoing feed.”
Pontiac and GM, which have been sponsoring the SAP feed “get an animated billboard which says `Gracias Pontiac for bringing us the WB News At 10 on 11,”’ said Ms. Berlamino, who in 1988 was the local sales manager at Tribune’s KTLA-TV in Los Angeles when the station launched its historic Spanish SAP program for its 10 p.m. news.
Steve Paulus, senior VP/general manager of NY1 News, who holds the same title for the forthcoming NY1 Noticias, calls WPIX’s SAP offering “a smart business proposal, since no one is doing Spanish at 10 o’clock.” Will Noticias’ 24-hour news lure Latinos away from WPIX and the Univision and Telemundo newscasts? “I think it will take a while,” he admitted. “People are accustomed to news at 10 and 11, but in every other time period we win.”
Noticias will follow the NY1 News half-hour clock, which is taped but allows for live inserts on breaking stories. It will similarly offer 12 minutes an hour of commercials.
Maritza Puello, Noticias executive producer will have a staff of eight, including herself, who will work in the network’s own office space and set within the NY1 News headquarters. Of the eight, three, Philip Klint, Adriana Hauser and Adhemar Montagne, are anchor-producers, and one, Juan Manuel Benitez, is a reporter. Noticias will also use NY1’s microwave trucks and bilingual reporters-from among its 30 on-camera reporters-who will file English and Spanish story versions. Peter Landis, NY1 News’ news director will also oversee Noticias.
The network “will be viewable when we start in half a million digital households,” said Mr. Paulus, who came to NY1 News after 13 years in news with WCBS-TV, New York.