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Telemundo’s Digital Pioneer

Peter Blacker, executive VP of revenue strategy and innovation at NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, readily admits that getting companies to focus on the burgeoning Hispanic market often requires a lot of creative thinking.

This was particularly apparent in digital media, where he has spent much of his career. After working at StarMedia, which operated the first Spanish- and Portuguese-language portal in the late 1990s, Blacker joined AOL Time Warner to work on AOL’s international businesses.

“While on a flight back from Japan, I suddenly realized we weren’t doing anything for the U.S. Hispanic market,” Blacker recalled. “It was such a big market, but we weren’t doing anything.”

That idea, which led to the launch of the AOL Latino portal to target U.S. Hispanics in 2003, is one of many pioneering efforts by Blacker to build new digital businesses targeted to Latino consumers.

Those efforts, which have earned Blacker the Award for Executive Leadership in Hispanic Television and Video, are particularly important for Telemundo. Blacker joined the broadcast network in 2005 to lead its expansion into digital media and in 2018 was promoted to his current role overseeing revenue strategy and innovation at NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises.

No More Faxes

Much of Blacker’s success grows from a longtime fascination with Spanish-language culture and media. Blacker fondly recalled growing up in a family where both his father and mother worked in media. “My parents actually met working at Time Inc., and a lot of the talk at the dinner table was filled with media chatter,” he recalled.

Like many kids, Blacker didn’t want to follow in his parents’ footsteps, so he studied Spanish at Cornell. “But after doing a year abroad in Spain, I decided I’d use my Spanish in media,” he said. “I still remember going to my first media conference and seeing my dad’s name tag on the registration table. Mine was right next to it, only in Spanish.”

Blacker also recalls the exact moment when he became smitten with digital media. In 1999, while working at the cable network CBS Telenoticias, one of his clients demonstrated how email worked. “I sent back to the office and proclaimed, ‘I’m not using fax anymore,’ ” he laughed.

Work in the late 1990s and early 2000s at StarMedia and AOL led Telemundo to hire him to spearhead its internet charge as vice president of digital media and emerging businesses.

Early on, it was often hard to pry money out of sponsors’ ad budgets, even though Hispanic consumers skew younger and have long been more avid users of mobile and digital media than the general market.

“My second job out of college was in banking as a media analyst, so I’ve always been very focused on numbers,” he said. “While it may have been difficult to get people’s attention, I found that once I started to show the business case and the numbers, they could see the opportunity.”

Another major focus: Find sponsors for new digital offerings that would be tied to Telemundo’s extensive production and programming. “One of the first big things I wanted to do was to get our linear programming to somehow be involved with digital activities,” Blacker said.

In 2008, Blacker brokered a deal with Sprint to sponsor a mobile product that would let viewers decide on the outcome of a primetime show. “I always believed that to do digital well, we had to do it in a partnership with advertisers,” Blacker said.

Blacker also cut pioneering partnerships with a wide variety of digital media companies. “We were one of the first and one of the most successful partnerships at You-Tube,” Blacker said. “We have seven different channels that have over 1 million subs with YouTube, which is really unheard of.”

Other innovative ventures include: the launch of the multicultural studio Fluency; the creation of Latinx Now!, which covers the multicultural entertainment scene with both an English and Spanish program; the recent announcement that Telemundo would join top news brands like NBC News and the BBC to produce news programming for the mobile SVOD service Quibi; and the 2018 FIFA World Cup, where Blacker’s team was responsible for the mobile and digital experiences. (Telemundo is the event’s U.S. Spanish-language media rightsholder.)

“Having a flawless technological experience and seeing your app being No. 1 in the App Store every day of the World Cup was very rewarding for me and the phenomenal team I work with,” he said.

Those successes led to his promotion to a nearly created post overseeing strategy for all of Telemundo’s revenue streams. “We are looking at how we can future-proof our business in a world where there is not only a tremendous opportunity within streaming but also incredible lines of new business,” Blacker said.

A big advantage Telemundo has in that regard are the investments parent Comcast has made in the broadcaster’s original programming and facilities, Blacker said.

“We really have a heavy focus on original programing,” Blacker said. “That gives us the ability to move very quickly with digital properties” and joint ventures such as Peacock, the planned SVOD service from NBCUniversal that will include extensive Telemundo programming.

Comcast has also invested heavily in new facilities like the Telemundo Production Center in Florida that play a key role in its digital efforts. “With the facilities we have, we can easily produce multiple versions of shows very quickly and much more efficiently,” he said.