Attempting to turn around the sagging Spanish-language
network, Telemundo's owners -- Liberty Media Group and Sony Corp. -- replaced its
president, ex-CBS executive Peter Tortorici, last week.
Programming veteran James McNamara, 45, was appointed
president and CEO of Telemundo, which has seen its ratings and Hispanic market share
decline since Tortorici came on board last August, shortly after Sony and Liberty closed
their deal to buy the network. Telemundo is being battered by dominant Univision.
"There are no easy answers, and the fact is that our
share isn't where it should be," McNamara said. "But the answer is in the
execution of the shows."
McNamara, who grew up in Panama and who speaks Spanish
fluently, was most recently president of JMM Management, and he is a former president of
Universal Television Enterprises and ex-CEO of New World Entertainment.
Tortorici is forming his own production company, which will
develop and produce shows for Sony's Columbia TriStar Television Group.
McNamara said he plans to "stay the course" in
terms of Telemundo's previously announced program schedule for the fall, in which the
network brought back a primetime block of "telenovelas," or soap operas, to its
That move was in response to Telemundo's dramatic loss of
audience during the past year after it cut back the number of the popular novelas that it
was airing, instead running Spanish versions of veteran American series.
McNamara attended Telemundo's upfront presentation in New
York in May, and he said he liked the programming the network had planned for the new fall
"One of the reasons why I took this job was because I
was impressed with what I saw," he said. "There was a slight change of
direction, but there were things that were new and different. The schedule is ready to go.
And we sold this schedule to advertisers."
With its new fall lineup, Telemundo will air novelas from 7
p.m. to 9 p.m., action shows at 9 p.m. and news and information programming at 10 p.m.
McNamara, who was in Miami last week to talk with
Telemundo's staff about his appointment, also took time to allay a media buyer's fears
about the change.
In a June 30 story in the Los Angeles Times,Joe
Zubi, executive vice president of Miami-based Zubi Advertising, said he was opposed to
Zubi said his quote was taken out of context, and that in
fact, he "was opposed to any change of management that would lead to a change of
strategy by Telemundo."
McNamara, who read the Times story, met with Zubi in
Miami and assured him that Telemundo's fall lineup would stay intact. According to
McNamara, Zubi "was very pleased to hear that no [programming] changes were
Zubi -- who likes Telemundo's plan to add some novelas,
while still presenting less traditional Hispanic programming -- said, "For it to
succeed, Telemundo must regain some primetime numbers. But I feel confident that they will
become more competitive with Univision."
Jeff Valdez, co-chairman of Si TV, a planned
English-language network aimed at Latinos, said Tortorici faced a "tough task"
trying to jump-start Telemundo. Valdez said Tortorici described the job to him as
"like trying to change four tires on a car speeding down a highway."
Valdez added, "Advertisers have given Telemundo their
support even after what happened with the ratings."
Liberty and Sony Pictures Entertainment, a Sony unit, first
announced that they were acquiring Telemundo in late 1997.
Speculation was that more executive changes will follow
McNamara's appointment. Tortorici's team includes president of entertainment Nely Galan.
But McNamara said he plans to spend 90 days evaluating Telemundo's staffing, and he
doesn't plan to make any quick decisions.