Upfronts 2017: Telemundo Pitches ‘Shift’ in Spanish-Language Media

Telemundo says there’s been big change in the Spanish-language TV landscape, and it wants advertisers to recognize that in this year’s upfront.

The Comcast owned Spanish-language network, long a distant No. 2 to the dominant Univision, now finds itself running neck and neck in the primetime ratings race. Last year, it won some time periods in some demographics for the first time ever.

At a development meeting with clients and media buyers Wednesday, Telemundo will unveil its upfront theme, Shift Happens, and try to gain a bigger share of spending targeted at Latino audiences.

After NBCU’s morning upfront event featuring all of its networks, Telemundo will hold an exclusive event for ad clients and business partners that night at the Hammerstein Ballroom.

“What so exciting for us is clearly we’ve seen a tectonic change in Spanish-language media and more and more consumers are increasingly choosing Telemundo as their place for their entertainment, their news and their sports,” said Cesar Conde, chairman of NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises and NBCUniversal International Group.

The change is the result of investments made by Comcast and a strategy of reinventing programming for Latino viewers. ”We’ve been able to establish ourselves as the trendsetters and the innovators in the Hispanic media space, and it makes it very happy that not only have the results followed, but we’re also seeking many in the marketplace to follow Telemundo's lead into certain types of programming and genres,” Conde said. “We’re going to continue to double down on our strategy and investments.”

While Univision built its business on telenovelas from Mexico’s Televisa, Telemundo has been producing its own, more contemporary, made in America content. Telemundo is now the biggest provider in the U.S. of original Spanish-language content.

Related: Univision to Play on Passion in Upfront

Conde says Telemundo has been able to retain its core Spanish-language viewers while attracting younger viewers who are more multicultural.

“The audience we’re appealing to we like to call the 200 percenters. They’re 100% Latino and they’re 100% American,” he said.

Those younger viewers are attractive to advertisers, but Telemundo still has a way to go in closing the ad revenue gap between it and the more established Univision.

“There’s usually a little bit of a lag in monetization versus the results, but we think this is an important year,” Conde said, pointing to both Telemundo’s ratings strides as well as the quality of the Telemundo audience.

Laura Molen, executive VP for ad sales for NBCU’s lifestyle and Spanish-language networks, noted that Hispanic consumers control $1.7 trillion in spending power.

“We did research and we found out that our audiences had a higher expectation of what Spanish-language media should be,” Molen said. “They didn’t want telenovelas any more. They didn’t want low-quality programming. And they were expecting super series, high-quality programs, compelling contemporary storytelling, and they really were over the stereotypes that were being portrayed in Spanish-language media.”

More Engaged Viewers

And the audiences drawn to Telemundo’s new programming should be more attractive to advertisers.

“What we’re telling advertisers is take advantage of this shift because if you shift more of your dollars to Telemundo you will reach more Hispanics and we have research that shows they are more likely to be engaged in your brand,” Molen said.

NBC uses research from a company called Coherency that generates a metric for brand love that covers both networks and advertisers.

“What we saw was across the board, whether it was message recall, brand likeability, engagement or suggesting brands to others, we killed it across every metric when going head to head with Univision on this key set,” Molen said.

As a Telemundo advertiser, clients can also take advantage of NBCU’s data tools to optimize how best to reach consumers of their products (NBCU’s data also sometimes steers general market clients to Telemundo as a rich source of consumers within their target audience).

“We’re saying it’s time to shift share. And put your money where it’s going to be best invested. With that you’re going to get a more engaged consumer,” Molen said.

At the development meetings, Telemundo will talk about plans to continue innovating its programming by expanding into new genres.

For example, Telemundo this month debuts Guerra de Idolos (War of Idols). “It is the first-ever scripted music series in Spanish–language media,” said Conde, who likens it to Fox’s hit Empire.

“Music is such a high passion point within the Hispanic community. It transcends language, it transcends nationality and age,” he said. “We think combining that music genre with the innovative scripted super series storytelling that Telemundo has brought to the table, the increased production values, we think it’s a big idea for the Hispanic media space.”

Conde says Telemundo will have innovative activities around the show, including releasing original music and digital extensions.

Telemundo will also be talking about doing more miniseries inspired by icons of Hispanic culture.

The network is also going to be forming some innovative partnerships to distribute original digital content—some based on on-air programming, some stand-alone. NBCU already has relationships with BuzzFeed, Vox and Snapchat. Telemundo will be announcing its digital relationships closer to the NBCU upfront in May.

Big Game

Telemundo will also be talking about the World Cup, for which Comcast outbid long-time rights holder Univision.

“The World Cup is probably the single biggest sporting event in the world, and for us to have that event period is a big deal for us,” Conde said. “Because it shifted from Univision to Telemundo and this is the first time we’re going to have it in the portfolio, it is an even bigger deal when you combine it with the ratings momentum.”

In addition to generating new ad revenue, the World Cup is a huge promotional platform. Because of the time zones, games will air in the morning and afternoon, providing a strong lead in for primetime, he says.

Telemundo will also be moving into its new headquarters in Miami in January, and that will help foster continued innovation at the network.

“It’s going to allow us to be more collaborative by putting all of our different businesses together under one roof,” Conde said.

“It’s really interesting because it opens up so many things. One area of collaboration is with our innovation lab at NBC,” he says. “They were talking about what we do down in your new headquarters, whether it’s in VR or its creating second screen experiences they haven’t had a chance to work on with us. So it’s pretty exciting.”

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.