Telemundo Turns 20

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Friday marks Telemundo’s 20th anniversary as a network. Over that span, the Spanish-language channel has ranked a distant second in ratings and revenue to sector kingpin Univision.

“We don't have to beat Univision to be successful,” Telemundo president Don Browne said. “We just have to grow our share of the pie. We don't have to be No. 1 in broadcast.”

And the broadcaster will almost certainly not ascend to that position anytime soon, although Browne is quick to point to increased ratings since NBC Universal took control of Telemundo in April 2002.

At the time, Telemundo averaged 919,000 primetime viewers and 417,000 viewers in total day. Those numbers were up to 1.04 million and 441,000, respectively, in November 2006, according to Nielsen Hispanic Television Index. Telemundo executives said the network lifted its share of the Spanish-language TV audience in 2006 from 18% in 2005.

It should be noted, though, that Telemundo’s most recent numbers fall short of the 1.16 million primetime viewers and 440,000 total-day watchers it averaged in 1992, when Nielsen first began measuring Spanish-language television ratings and there was far less competition in the sector.

Browne attributed the increase in audience levels to NBC U's expensive in-house production strategy. Telemundo now produces and, in fact, successfully exports much of its programming.

NBC U also heavily invested in upgrading Telemundo-owned Latino youth cable network mun2, which is available in a little over 10.5 million homes. According to mun2 general manager Alex Pels, the cable network experienced 12 straight months of ratings growth, which prompted increased advertiser interest.

“We had a very good upfront in ‘06 and added 14 major new advertisers, which has more than doubled our ad-sales revenue,” Pels said.

Even with improvements in ratings over the 18 months since NBC U took control of the network, Browne conceded, “It takes time when you have a competitor that has been so dominant for so long. It creates significant habits in peoples’ viewing patterns. So we have to chip away at that dominance.”

Telemundo might well find itself chipping away for a long time to come.

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