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Telemundo Takes Aim at Univision

5/16/2006 4:54 PM Eastern

New York -- Looking to build upon the sharp rating increases it registered across an array of dayparts, Telemundo was poised to announce its new programming lineup to advertisers at its upfront presentation here Tuesday night.

"The strategy is very clear, very simple, and that is we produce original content specifically for the U.S. Hispanic market," said Don Browne, president of Telemundo Networks, during an afternoon press call preceding Telemundo's upfront presentation to advertisers. "We control the content, we create the content and we have the cause and effect to show the results."

Weekday primetime this coming season will consist of the usual slate of new telenovelas and what is being billed as the first-ever adaptation of the Zorro story into the novela format. In keeping with a networkwide focus on digital platforms, Telemundo will offer additional telenovela content online.

Last week, Telemundo and Yahoo! Inc. (www.yahoo.com) announced the creation of a co-branded Web site for the U.S. Hispanic market. Telemundo is aggressively pushing advertising sales on multiple platforms

Telemundo senior vice president of sales, marketing and distribution Steve Mandala touted the availability of "24-hour, 360-degree platforms that will be ready and able to go tomorrow."

Perhaps the biggest programming novelty will come in weekend primetime, where Telemundo will take dead aim at making inroads against Sabado Gigante (Giant Saturday), Univision's successful 20-year-old variety-show franchise. The network will air 13 episodes of a modern genre entry, El Gran Show (The Great Show), Saturdays from 7 p.m.-9 p.m.

"Obviously, it is in a time period in which we think there is a huge opportunity. Our competitor has a show on the air right now that at best one could call tired, if not aging," said Ramón Escobar Telemundo, senior executive VP of network entertainment. "We feel we can go right at them with a much more contemporary, fun, family-filled variety show."

Telemundo is planning to air its first afternoon telenovela. The network will also run a Spanish-language adaptation of popular game show Deal or no Deal, which will return on sister network NBC during the 2006-07 TV season.

Despite its oft-cited in-house production strategy, Telemundo remains a distant second in ratings and revenue to Spanish-language media kingpin Univision Communications Inc., which relies heavily on airing primetime telenovelas imported primarily from Mexico.

Citing data from Nielsen Media Research’s Hispanic Television Index, Mandala said Telemundo registered a 58% rise in the early morning daypart this season, led by Cada Dia, as well a 15% gain in daytime overall, which enabled it to regain the second position behind Univision and ahead of that network's sister broadcast service, TeleFutura.

Elsewhere, Mandala said Telemundo has notched advances of 11%, 42% and 68%, respectively, in early fringe, network news and primetime.

According to Mandala, Telemundo's recent ratings gains are coming primarily at Univision's expense.

As for Mun2, Telemundo's Latino youth-oriented cable network, it has seen triple-digit ratings increases in many time slots over the last year, albeit from a tiny base of viewers. Mandala cited particularly strong growth, 313%, with Mun2's presentation of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. fare.

The cable network announced several new programs, and Mandala claimed that advertisers are expressing interest in advertising on both mun2 and Telemundo.

October