Telemundo Beefs Up Weekends

Telemundo is rolling out its first-ever variety show in an effort to rival Univision’s long-running variety show, Sabado Gigante,on Saturday nights. The network's El Gran Show, along with a Spanish-language version of Deal or No Deal and several new novellas, is part of a new batch of shows the NBC Universal-owned network is debuting this season in an effort to increase its share of the Hispanic television advertising market and beef up weekend prime time programming.

The two-hour Gran Show, which will air Saturdays at 7 p.m., will feature eight teams from eight cities competing against each other in a variety-show format for a prize. Its competition, Sabado Gigante, has run for more than 1,000 episodes on the Spanish-language market leader.

“Who doesn’t sense weakness?” said Telemundo Senior Executive VP of Network Entertainment Ramon Escobar of Sabado Gigante. “It’s a tired show. It’s been on a long time. Every show has its run. We think we need to be aggressive on Saturday and Sunday.”

On Sunday, Telemundo has scheduled Vas o No Vas, a Spanish-language version of Deal or No Deal, which has yielded significant ratings for the NBC broadcast network. Also coming that night is Seguro y Urgente, a drama about a postal service worker who gets emotionally involved with his clients.

The network has slated its first original daytime novela as well, a Desperate Housewives-esque drama, which will run at 1 p.m. Cuatro Rosas (Four Roses) features four women who live in the same neighborhood and confide in each other about their satisfaction, or lack thereof, in love and life. Also joining daytime is new game show Buena Fortuna.

Telemundo also announced a new batch of its popular prime time novelas, drawing attention to the fact that it produces its own content and thus has greater flexibility with repurposing it for different platforms. New novelas include a Zorro adaptation, Zorro: la Espada y la Rosa, in partnership with Sony Pictures Television International; Dame Chocolate, a comedic look at an uncomely woman who inherits her family’s fortune from the chocolate industry; and Madre Luna, a love triangle about an older woman, a younger man and a mystery third person.

Telemundo presented its new programs to advertisers and other TV executives at its upfront presentation Tuesday evening at New York’s LincolnCenter. The network claimed less than 25% of the $1.2 billion in ad spending during last year’s Hispanic upfront, but it holds over its biggest competitor the fact that it produces most of its own programming. Some 80% of Univision’s prime time programming, on the other hand, comes from Mexico's Grupo Televisa, which is making a bid to buy Univision, currently up for sale.

Because Telemundo owns its content, it can more easily shepherd it onto multiple digital platforms, evidenced by the network’s announcement last week that it has paired with Yahoo! on a U.S. Hispanic Internet site, Yahoo! Telemundo. The network—between the Telemundo channel, its youth-targeted cable network mun2 and Yahoo! Telemundo—is offering advertisers 24 different opportunities to put content on digital platforms, according to Steve Mandala, Senior VP, Sales and Marketing, Telemundo and NBC Universal Networks.

“None of these would be possible unless we developed and created our own content,” he said.

The U.S. Hispanic upfront market is expected to be bigger than ever this year, as more national advertisers place ads on both the Spanish-language broadcast and cable networks. Part of that is a result of Univision and Telemundo having signed up to be rated as part of Nielsen’s national sample, the National Television Index, earlier this year. Since then, Univision has regularly placed fifth, and sometimes fourth, of all broadcast networks in the 18-34 demographic.

With Univision’s impending sale creating an uncertain environment around the market leader in the minds of some advertisers, Telemundo touted recent ratings gains and staff expansion as signs of their own success.

“The strategy is very clear and simple,” said Telemundo President Don Browne. “We produce original content specifically for the U.S. Hispanic market. In every aspect of that market and to every platform we serve, we control the content and we create the content, and we have the cause and effect to show the results.”