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For Media Buyers, It’s Telemundo + Univision

Complete Coverage: Upfronts 2016

With heightened competition on many fronts, broadcast networks are fighting an array of competitors as they head into upfront season. In the U.S. Hispanic TV market, though, there is one Yankees-Red Sox-style rivalry that defines the space: the one between Univision and Telemundo.

That’s why top sales executives at the two Hispanic networks are pumped for the start of the annual broadcast network upfront presentations this week. But media buyers are sending a clear signal that it isn’t an either-or question—their clients need both networks.

“Univision and Telemundo each have very valuable assets that we look to leverage each year in the upfront for our clients,” says Deidre Smalls-Landau, executive VP and managing director of Identity, IPG Mediabrands’ multicultural unit. “We don’t favor one or the other. Each one of our clients has strategic needs, and we will align those needs with what each network has to offer. Both have their strengths and their sweet spots.”

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Mike Rosen, who oversees Telemundo ad sales as NBC Universal executive VP, advertising sales, news and Hispanic groups, sees a key selling point being the inroads his network has made in closing the primetime 18-49 viewer gap with Univision.

He also notes that Telemundo will join with all the English-language networks owned by parent company NBCUniversal in a single upfront presentation on May 16. That move to unify separate cable, broadcast and Telemundo events will demonstrate how marketers can optimize reach to Hispanic viewers across all NBCU properties.

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Keith Turner, president of Univision ad sales, says he doesn’t focus on the moves of rivals, even Telemundo. “I’m not concerned about how Telemundo sells,” Turner says. “What I’m focused on is selling our two broadcast networks, our 14 cable networks, our 69 radio stations, 62 local TV stations and our digital platforms. And targeting advertisers on ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. We already have every advertiser on Telemundo.”

Rosen says during the 2012-13 primetime TV season, Univision was averaging 1.3 million more 18-49 viewers in C3 measurement mode than Telemundo during Monday-Friday primetime. Season to date, the gap has been reduced to less than 250,000. And he says on certain nights the difference is less than 100,000. “We have narrowed the gap significantly and that’s a testimony to our programming vision and strategy,” Rosen says.

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Another positive for Telemundo is the network’s ability to integrate brands into its Super Series 10 p.m. telenovelas, many of which it produces at its own studio in Miami. And Rosen says that ability will grow when the network opens its new $250 million Miami headquarters in 2018. It will include a state-of-the-art production studio.

Joe Zubi, owner of Zubi Advertising, which handles Hispanic national media buying for Ford, Chase and Dunkin Donuts, adds, “Univision is still No. 1 for mass reach, but that’s not all we buy TV for. We are looking more at what Hispanic networks can do for our clients beyond 30-second spots. Univision offers packages across their family of properties, and that’s very attractive. But its integration opportunities into programming is still somewhat limited. Telemundo offers more integration into its novelas, and now entwined with all the NBCU properties it will become easier for us to reach Hispanics who are watching English-language TV.”

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Turner says that despite some ratings erosion, Univision has completed four consecutive quarters of revenue growth. “We’re in terrific shape heading into the upfront,” he says. “We activated over 120 new brands since the last upfront and we’ve made a major push with luxury cars. We now have Mercedes, Audi and BMW among our auto advertisers. We also made great strides with movie studios.” Turner also sees less advertiser churn.

While Univision and Telemundo battle it out, Azteca America hopes to gain some share. The network has already held upfront presentations in four major markets and just delivered its best April ratings in four years, including a double-digit increase in adults 18-49. The network just created Azteca Glassworks Studio, an in-house digital brand content provider for advertisers and rolled out programmatic buying for TV and digital platforms.

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“We are not abandoning the smaller Hispanic networks,” Zubi notes. “They may get fewer ad dollars but our clients will continue to support them. We are already a player with Azteca in their boxing programming.”