Telemundo has doubled its primetime high-definition
programming and is now airing two telenovelas in the format each evening,
Monday through Friday.
"Half of our primetime programming is now in HD and we are
looking to have the entire primetime schedule in HD probably over the next 12
to 24 months," said senior executive vice president of Telemundo Studios and
production and broadcast operations Derek Bond.
Telemundo became the first national Spanish-language
broadcaster to offer some programming in true HD on April 29, with the
broadcast of the 2009 Billboard Latin
Music Awards. It subsequently aired some specials and two novelas, DoÃ±a BÃ¡rbara and Mas Sabe El Diablo (pictured) in HD. Since June 23, it has aired
two hours of novelas in HD each weeknight.
Adding more HD programming is likely to be a gradual
process, though, with the time frame dependent "on the economy and advertising
coming back," Bond said.
"In 2010, the next big play will be to build our first HD
control room here at the network for our live television and sports, and to
transition more of the studio structure where we produce our novelas and
daytime shows to HD," Bond said. "Hopefully, before or at least by the time
Univision comes out with their World Cup coverage in HD in 2010, the soccer
games and any other sporting events [that come out of the Hialeah,
Fla., network operations center] will be
done in HD."
Planning for the control room is still in the early stages
and no decisions have been made on vendors or equipment. While they've used
some integrators in the past, it seems likely that the project will be handled
in-house, possibly with some help from parent company NBC Universal.
A late 2008 study by Telemundo found that nearly half of
their audience had HD sets and Telemundo executives hope HD programming will
help them gain market share from the Hispanic market ratings leader Univision,
which will be making the move to HD next year with its World Cup coverage.
"Our audience is a very brand loyal audience, so being the
first with HD programming will allow us to build up a loyal audience by showing
them we have higher quality original programming," Bond said.
Ken Wilkey, senior vice president network broadcast operations,
added that Telemundo has also been working to establish itself as an innovator
on the station level. In 2007, owned-and-operated KVEA became the first Los
Angeles station to offer a local newscast in HD,
beating out all the other English and Spanish stations in the market. In 2008, NBC's
Miami duopoly -- the English-language NBC affiliate WTVJ and Telemundo's WSCV --
simultaneously became the first stations in that market to offer local HD
newscasts, according to Wilkey.
Still, Wilkey stressed that the move to HD will be a lengthy
process, as it has been at the English-language broadcasters. Currently two Telemundo
O&Os are offering local newscasts in HD and nine of the 16 Telemundo owned
and operated stations are transmitting an HD feed of Telemundo's programming.
Portions of the schedule not shot in HD are being upconverted to 1080i.
"We've focused on the largest markets, and now we're
evaluating what makes sense for the other markets," either in terms of
launching local news or adding an HD feed, Wilkey said.
With the expanded HD programming lineup, Wilkey said he also
expects some other Telemundo affiliates to begin launching high-definition telecasts.