Hispanic News Comes of Age

Jun 23, 2003  •  Post A Comment

NBC-owned Telemundo is using the muscle of its parent company to bolster its network news operation’s image against front-running Univision.
Since NBC’s acquisition of Telemundo last year Joe Peyronnin, executive VP, news and information programming, has worked with NBC News in building synergies between the two news divisions. The Iraq war was the most recent operation. Eleven Telemundo staffers worked alongside NBC personnel, and Telemundo even aired work by two high-profile NBC correspondents, the late David Bloom and NBC’s Miami correspondent Kerry Sanders.
Mr. Sanders spoke in Spanish; Mr. Bloom’s words were simultaneously translated by morning anchor Jose Diaz Balart or, for reports later in the day, by chief anchor Pedro Sevcec.
During the war Telemundo pre-empted its daytime programming to allow news to run to 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., expanded its 6 p.m.-to-6:30 p.m. news to run until 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. and created “Punto Final,” a late-night show focusing on the war.
The joint efforts paid off in household ratings. From an average of 19 percent of Hispanic households watching the network, households rose to 28 percent during the first week of war coverage and to 32 percent the second week, according to Nielsen Media Research data provided by Telemundo.
“We are an operating company within NBC and considered part of NBC News, so I report to Neal Shapiro, President of NBC News,” explained Mr. Peyronnin, who works in the company’s Hialeah, Fla., headquarters and commutes home to New York on weekends. “Every two weeks I attend the NBC News staff meeting to discuss mutual plans.”
Telemundo and NBC will work together on next year’s Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, and on the fall elections.
Telemundo’s current full-force news department is the result of 35-year television journalist Mr. Peyronnin’s joining the Sony-owned company in April 1999 as executive VP of news and information programming. At that time Telemundo was running a half-hour newscast from CBS-owned TeleNoticias, acquired by CBS’s parent Westinghouse in June 1996 from Telemundo.
“We knew we needed a strong news presence,” said Mr. Peyronnin, who started the network’s news organization in February 2000. “We knew Univision had a 10-year start, with a strong news presence and an anchor team in place on its 6:30 news.” By the time NBC acquired the company in April 2002, the division was operational. Today it employs upward of 200 personnel, with representation in key domestic markets, Mexico and throughout Latin America.
Drawing on his 35 years with CBS in a number of key news positions from 1970 to 1995, and from 1995 to 1996 when he served as president of Fox News and created its network operation, Mr. Peyronnin launched the network’s weekday morning news block of “Hoy En El Mundo” (7 a.m. to 9 a.m.) and “De Ma ‘anita” (9 a.m. to 10 a.m.), plus the afternoon “Al Rojo Vivo Con Maria Celeste” (5 p.m. to 6 p.m.), its seven-day-a-week 6:30 p.m. newscast “Noticiero Telemundo” in September 2000 and the weekend version starting three days before Sept. 11, 2001, followed by “Sin Fronteras,” a public affairs show, in the summer of 2002. Later this year Telemundo launches its version of ABC’s “The View,” called “Las Comadres,” as a one-hour weekday strip.
Don’t think it’s been a one-way street, with NBC helping Telemundo. Telemundo has assisted “Dateline” twice with stories this year. The first story, the separation of the Guatemala twins joined at the head, was done on-camera by afternoon anchor Maria Celeste Arraras (who appeared twice as herself on the NBC soap “Passions” last October). The second feature was developed at Houston O&O KTMD-TV about an effort to bribe prison officials to get inmates released from jail. Mr. Peyronnin said he and “Dateline’s” executive producer, David Curvo, were alerted to the story. Mr. Curvo assigned someone to work with the local station to develop it into a national story. Then KTMD did a series on the incident and repackaged the material into a feature for Telemundo’s magazine show.
During the Athens Summer Olympics, Telemundo will cull its programming from the 806.5 hours NBC will provide for all its TV components. Said Mr. Peyronnin: “As part of our Olympics coverage, I think you’ll see more soccer than on NBC, because our audience loves the sport. Telemundo Sports already provides NBC with boxing.”
During next year’s political conventions and elections, Telemundo will provide its own coverage targeted to issues important to Hispanics, working out of NBC’s facilities. Mr. Peyronnin has met with the new NBC team of producers, who will coordinate election coverage.
On a local level, NBC has moved Telemundo stations in Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago into the NBC O&O’s facilities, where they operate out of joint newsrooms.