Telemundo Stations’ Election Season Efforts Paying Off

With Televised debates and polling, Telemundo’s local stations have stepped up their political coverage and are tapping into the big money being spent on election campaigns.

Since becoming part of Comcast’s NBCUniversal Owned TV Stations division in 2013, Telemundo has increased its investment in news in general, adding newscasts, staffers and special reporting units.

The next phase of the plan was to enhance political coverage, Telemundo Station Group president Manuel Martinez said. “We felt that the voices of our community were not being heard and we wanted to make sure that they also got all the information that they need.”

At the same time, political advertising has been mushrooming, and NBCU wanted to be sure Telemundo was getting its share.

Constituents Could Swing Elections

“Political has been a big boon for television stations in the general market for years,” Frank Comerford, chief revenue officer for the NBC and Telemundo Owned Station Group, said.

“When we started managing the Telemundo stations and we looked at the amount of money in the Spanish marketplace as a whole and the Telemundo stations in particular, we saw this as a huge opportunity,” Comerford said. “The amount of Spanish [speakers’] votes out there could swing elections. Maybe in Florida, in the presidential election, it did.”

Over the course of the last four or five years, political ad revenue at the Telemundo stations has more than tripled. But there’s still room for growth, because spending against the Spanish-language audience still isn’t at par with spending against general audience.

“Through the efforts of Manuel’s news teams and what’s going on at all the stations, there are people that are interested in politics and the real opportunity for issue advertising and political advertising to reach a new group of consumers,” Comerford said.

In general, NBCU’s pitch to advertisers looking to reach Hispanic consumers is to build reach with commercials on both NBCU’s Spanish language and English language properties.

The company is now setting up a special political ad sales unit that represents both NBC and Telemundo stations, particularly those in markets where NBCU has a duopoly.

In most of their markets, the NBC stations are already in line for most political advertising.

“Basically when an avail request comes into the general market, it gives us the opportunity to extend reach in a marketplace. When you take the NBC and the Telemundo stations together in almost any market, there’s almost a majority of the viewer-ship that is nonduplicated. So you have a reach advantage versus any one station, be it an ABC station or a Univision station,” Comerford said, referring to Telemundo’s top Spanish-language rival.

Pat Notley, who is VP of sales for NBC’s WRC and Telemundo’s WZDC in Washington, D.C., will be in charge of the new political sales unit being formed to represent the NBCU Owned TV Stations Division. It will also represent the NBC Regional Sports Networks.

Assigned to the political sales unit are VPs Aaron Zeligson and Will Hildebrandt.

The unit will focus on the political marketplace and coordinate efforts with local and national spot political sales leads at NBC and Telemundo stations around the country on a year-round basis.

“We don’t want to just come in and out of it,” Comerford said. “I think there’s an education process that we need to do in nonpolitical periods so that when the money’s coming fast and furious during a political period, we’ll have a team already making the relationships and the presentations.”

Airing Debates, Taking Polls

During the run-up to the midterm elections on Nov. 6, Telemundo stations have either aired or are set to air debates in states with closely watched races, including Florida, Texas, California, Maryland and Illinois. In most cases, the debates were also streamed by both the Telemundo stations and the NBC stations in the state.

Telemundo stations also conducted and reported on their own statewide polls in Florida, California, Texas, Arizona and New Jersey. Data from the polls, highlighting issues important to Hispanic voters, are being shared with their NBC counterparts.

“We’ve gone above and beyond what we usually have done in the past, again to enhance our political brand and to make sure that our viewers are educated on everything that they need to know to make informed decisions,” Martinez said.

Campaign coverage by NBC and Telemundo stations is also being coordinated, giving those duopolies more resources and more reporters in the field leading up to election day.

“There’s going to be significant coverage both from the network and the local end,” Martinez said. “At the local stations we’re doing a lot about local races, which in are markets have become very hot. The polls are very close so there’s going to be a lot of interest on that day.”

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.