Joe Ramos is president of WAPA-TV, a full-power station in Puerto Rico, which this year acquired the Miss Puerto Rico Universe pageant, the biggest television event on the island. The pageant, which formerly aired on Telemundo, this year was revamped to let the public choose five of 20 semifinalists through a 10-week reality series, Por la Corona, leading up to tonight’s (Oct. 22) telecast. Multichannel News contributor Laura Martínez spoke recently with Ramos, a former Telemundo executive, about WAPA’s plans to produce exclusive programming for its U.S. feed, WAPA Americas, and about the station’s recent ratings gains against Univision and Telemundo. An edited transcript follows:
Q: WAPA-TV is set to air its first Miss Puerto Rico Universe beauty pageant tonight. How and why did your station acquire this franchise?
A: The Miss Puerto Rico Universe franchise is held by an independent production owned by Magali Febles, and it used to air on Telemundo. But after I left, Telemundo didn’t really get involved in it. It got to a point that it became an uphill battle for the producer, and that’s how she came to see me here, at WAPA-TV, seven or eight months ago. She asked, ‘Would you guys be interested?’ Of course I was interested, because year after year this has been the most viewed show on Puerto Rican television.
We have the second-most Miss Universe winners in the world after Venezuela, so it is also a great source of pride for the people. But it is a show that has had up to a 75 to 80 share of audience.
Q: WAPA-TV is also set to premiere on Oct. 29 its first locally produced telenovela in 15 years.
A: Al borde del deseo is really different from what people are used to in terms of telenovelas. First of all, we’re not calling it a novela, we’re calling it a dramatic series. The difference is that even if there is a storyline throughout the whole novela, each episode is going to end in a cliff-hanger so you’ll have to wait for a whole week to see what’s going to happen next.
Also, unlike regular telenovelas, this will run one episode each week. We have a lot of expectations from this because it’s the first drama WAPA has done in 15 or 16 years; second, it has an incredible cast, with everyone from Puerto Rico except for the leading man (Rodolfo Jimenez) who we brought from Mexico.
Q: Is this part of the strategy to compete with Univision and Telemundo?
A: Both Univision and Telemundo basically program for women; they are women-oriented networks. We cannot compete with them in women products. Telemundo airs four novelas in prime time; Univision airs three novelas prime time. We do not have the resources, nor the ability to acquire quality world telenovelas. Where we can compete with them is in local productions. That’s the strategy.
Q: How has the station done ratings-wise?
A: On Oct. 7, for example, we beat both Univision and Telemundo in the 6-11 pm time period. WAPA-TV had a 30 share in persons 18-49, compared with an 18 share of Telemundo and 24 of Univision. In women, WAPA had 29, Univision, 27 and Telemundo had 19. We beat both Univision and Telemundo in both demographics. More importantly, in the last seven months we are the only station that has grown in both persons and women. The one that has declined the most is Telemundo. On the night of the gubernatorial debate (Oct. 1) we did a 55 share and were by far the number 1 station that night.
Q: You have been quoted before saying television is all about programming, what’s your programming strategy?
A: The key to us is going to be local programming. We are going to develop more and better local shows. Our series and movies are doing great but at the end of the day we must develop and strengthen our strategy of being Puerto Rico’s station. Moving forward, though, we will also begin to broaden the scope of our viewers for WAPA America, doing more Caribbean type of programming targeting not only Puerto Ricans but also Cubans, Dominicans. In fact we have just produced the first show that is going to be exclusively for WAPA America, it’s a cooking show called Cielito What’s Cooking? which is expected to air in November.
Q: What expectations do you have with WAPA America?
A: One of the things we want to do is to produce more things that will be tailor-made for WAPA America. We are a small island and one of the things our talent wants to do, and needs to do, is to expand their horizons. And what WAPA America allows us to do is to stage live shows in U.S. cities, like the one some of our talent is doing in clubs in Orlando [Fla.], which is a way to get exposure in the U.S. and produce the additional income we need to invest in the shows themselves. We need to take advantage of the fact that WAPA America reaches almost 3 million people in the U.S. and that will create a larger and better talent pool here in Puerto Rico.