Upfronts 2009: Telemundo Hopes to Ride Ratings, Hispanic Growth

Complete Upfronts 2009 coverage from Multichannel News

Telemundo heads into the upfront ad-sales auction optimistically, riding growing ratings and a focus on originally produced programming that can be tailored to advertisers' needs in marketing to the growing U.S. Hispanic audience, officials said at a presentation to reporters here today.

"In a challenging marketplace or a flat marketplace, I wouldn't want to be any other place than where we are right now," Michael Rodriguez, senior VP of sales and marketing at NBC Universal-owned Telemundo, said at the gathering, at The Modern. "Strong ratings, the right proposition, the right opportunity for advertisers, that's something that sets us apart. So I'm actually looking forward to the upfront."

Rodriguez echoed other cable executives in saying the upfront would take a long time to gel this year, perhaps extending into October.

"This is a challenging time for everybody," Telemundo president Don Browne said. But Hispanics' economic power is growing and Telemundo has been able to demonstrate return on investment to advertisers. One example, he said, was the big push Telemundo put behind NBC Universal's theatrical release of Fast & Furious last month. Star Vin Diesel, a presenter at the Telemundo-aired Billboard Latin Music Awards, thanked the Hispanic audience for providing 50% of the opening weekend box office, reported at $102 million worldwide.

"Actually, it was 46%," Browne said.

The NBC-owned Telemundo broadcast network has had eight straight months of year-over-year growth, and May ratings were 32% ahead of a year ago, Browne said.

Mun2, the digital cable network aimed at a younger demographic, is the fastest growing Hispanic cable network, according to Browne.

Telemundo officials, for the second straight year, have been holding client meetings with key advertisers, who all report a desire to "stretch their advertising dollars," Rodriguez said.

Telemundo stresses its willingness to write product placements into its telenovelas, with episodes that are written only 10 to 13 days from when they air. Browne said a Telemundo show met a General Motors request by creating a character, a female professional, who drives a Chevrolet Malibu.

The network is employing a new tagline, "To ignite the power of dreams," for its 2009-10 lineup, emphasizing the qualities of being "provocative, smart and traditional."

The new mun2 tagline is "You're on," and the emphasis is on helping younger viewers connect with both their Latino heritage and their American experience. "One thing all Hispanics share is the American dream," Telemundo COO Jacqueline Hernandez said. Another mun2 meme is "Querio Mas:" I want more.

Six new primetime telenovelas are set to run this fall and early in 2010 on Telemundo, which produces shows in Miami, Fla., and in Colombia.

Ninos Ricos, Pobres Padres (pictured above, right), said to translate roughly as "Spoiled Brats, Poor Parents," is about a 17-year-old girl who moves from the United States to Mexico City to live with her wealthy aunt and is plunged into high school drama.

Perro Amor ("Cheating Hearts" is how officials translated it) is about two cousins and lovers, Antonia and Camila, who fall into drama and betrayal when Camila challenges Antonio to sleep with a young woman whom he secretly falls in love with.

Rosalinda y Primitivo is about two half-brothers born under dramatically different circumstances who fall in love with the same woman.

Reina del Sur ("Queen of the South"), from the novel by renowned Spanish author Arturo Perez-Reverte, tells of a woman who moves from Mexico to Spain and builds an empire in the world of drug trafficking after her fiancé is murdered by drug lords. It's coming in 2010, SVP of programming Adriana Ibanez said, calling it a coup to be working with Perez-Reverte. "This is a story we have been waiting six years for," she said.

Victorinos is about three men named Victorino, all of whom were born on the same day. A fortune teller's prophecy predicts that one of them is fated to die on the day the three meet.

In El Clon (pictured, left), a young woman moves to Morocco after the death of her mother and undergoes lifestyle and cultural changes in order to survive in a new world. She falls in love with a man who is killed in an accident but is cloned and returns 20 years later once she has married and had children. Co-produced with Brazilian programmer Globo, El Clon is a remake of a successful Brazilian telenovela. Telemundo aired the original in 2002.

In the first quarter of 2010, mun2 is premiering The mun2 Look, a multiplatform fashion initiative shot in New York. The experience is about "standing out and embracing a personal style," and features looks into the latest fashion, technology, entertainment and lifestyle trends.

A new reality series, Lost Twins, on mun2 is the story of two brothers rising through the world of Mexican regional music. The show premieres in the second quarter of 2010.

Kent Gibbons

Kent has been a journalist, writer and editor at Multichannel News since 1994 and with Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He is a good point of contact for anything editorial at the publications and for Nexttv.com. Before joining Multichannel News he had been a newspaper reporter with publications including The Washington Times, The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal and North County News.