[lg policy] Telemundo Blends English Into a Mostly Spanish Lineup
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Wed Oct 26 15:47:59 UTC 2011
October 25, 2011
Telemundo Blends English Into a Mostly Spanish Lineup
By AMY CHOZICK
Telemundo has long trailed its rival Univision in their competition
for Hispanic television viewers in the United States. But as the
number of second- and third-generation Hispanic-Americans skyrockets,
the perennial runner-up is embracing a new strategy — English-language
subtitles and Spanglish — to attract deep-pocketed viewers and the
advertisers who covet them.
The new approach, reflecting the changing dynamics of Hispanics across
the country, can be seen in the network debut of the Cuban-born
television personality Cristina Saralegui as the host of a Sunday
variety show, and in a crop of new telenovelas intended to reflect the
sensibilities of acculturated Hispanics.
In each case, the programs will feature a sprinkling of English and be
available with English subtitles — something not as readily found on
the competing Univision. As Telemundo’s president, Emilio Romano, put
it after joining the network in October, his goal is to “focus on a
more acculturated, more bilingual” audience, without alienating the
core Spanish-dominant viewers.
“If you think about Telemundo as a narrower broadcast network, you
quickly get to the place where, like all broadcast networks, your
mandate must be to go for the widest possible audience,” said Lauren
Zalaznick, the chairwoman of entertainment and digital networks and
integrated media for Telemundo’s parent company, NBCUniversal.
Bilingual Hispanics, defined as speaking English more than Spanish or
Spanish and English equally, are 82 percent of the United States
Hispanic population, according to a report released this year by
Scarborough Research, a consumer research firm. This group has more
disposable income than the more Spanish-speaking recent immigrants,
with 12 percent of acculturated Hispanic families earning $75,000 to
$100,000 a year, the study said.
Telemundo’s efforts to capture viewers in that category speaks to a
larger goal within NBCUniversal under the new ownership of the
nation’s largest cable provider, Comcast Corp. As a cable and
broadband provider, Comcast foresees Hispanics driving growth in new
cable subscriptions, an otherwise mostly flat business. The 2010
Census results showed more than half the total population growth in
the United States from 2000 to 2010 was because of the increase in the
Hispanic population. In 2010, Hispanics accounted for 50.5 million
people residing in the United States, up from 35.3 million a decade
The change in demographics has been noted by advertisers, who have
flocked to Spanish television in growing numbers. In the 2011-12
season, advanced advertising sales at Telemundo spiked 25 percent from
the previous year to more than $400 million, and the price that
advertisers pay per 1,000 viewers doubled, according NBCUniversal.
Advertisers also may be attracted by the fact that Hispanics watch
more TV as a family, with Spanish-speaking grandparents often gathered
around the TV with their predominantly English-speaking grandchildren,
according to the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies. Shows
that incorporate both languages and cultures can hook multiple
“You may have a home full of generations with different perspectives,”
said Roberto Orci, chief executive of Acento, a Los Angeles-based
advertising agency aimed at Hispanics.
Telemundo hopes to capitalize on that with Ms. Saralegui, who came to
the network after more than two decades as Univision’s daytime queen.
Known as “Oprah Winfrey with salsa,” her mix of saucy, Spanglish
celebrity interviews and girl talk is seen as central to Telemundo’s
The platinum blonde’s “Pa’lante con Cristina” made its debut on Oct.
9, and attracted 1.2 million viewers, according to Nielsen.
Univision’s Sunday-night “¡Mira Quién Baila!” — a Spanish-language
take on “Dancing With the Stars” also available with English
closed-captions — averages 3.9 million viewers. On an average night,
Univision has 3.8 million viewers compared with one million for
Unlike her Univision show, in which Ms. Saralegui gabbed about
cheating husbands, eating disorders and plastic surgery and largely
featured stars from Mexican telenovelas, her Telemundo show aims to
draw both Spanish-speaking stars and mainstream Hollywood celebrities.
“If Tom Cruise wants to sell ‘Mission Impossible 4,’ ” Ms. Saralegui
said, “then he has to go to Spanish-speaking viewers, and I hope he
jumps on my couch.” Some guests will speak English on the show, with
simultaneous translation, she said.
In addition to “Pa’lante con Cristina,” the network’s Miami-based
Telemundo Studios is shooting “Una Maid en Manhattan,” a telenovela
based on the 2002 Jennifer Lopez movie. The soapy drama will be
available with English subtitles.
“Más Sabe el Diablo” (“The Devil Knows Best”), which concluded in
early 2010, also took place in New York and was available with English
In next year’s lineup of telenovelas, there will be “Caidas del Cielo”
— a “Charlie’s Angels”-inspired drama — and “Físico o Química” — about
the complicated relationships at an urban high school. In addition,
Telemundo’s bilingual crossover Web site targets English-dominant
Hispanics, and its sister network Mun2 (pronounced moon-dose or
“worlds” in Spanish) is aimed at young Hispanics who speak English
outside the home.
Telemundo is receiving promotional help from sister networks. Ms.
Saralegui appeared on NBC’s “Today” show. The women of “The Real
Housewives of Miami” went on Telemundo’s morning show “Levántate.”
Jencarlos Canela, the lead in “Más Sabe el Diablo,” sang the
Spanish-language theme song in Universal Pictures’ hit animated
Even with the new corporate mandate, getting Telemundo celebrities on
“Today” is not easy. Many household names among Spanish-speaking
viewers do not have the crossover clout to carry a segment on the
country’s most-watched morning show.
That is why as soon as Joshua Mintz, Telemundo’s head of
entertainment, heard that Univision had not renewed Ms. Saralegui’s
contract and that she was free to negotiate a new deal, he went to her
Miami home and discussed coming to Telemundo. “In our market, there
aren’t a lot of icons or long-lasting figures,” Mr. Mintz said.
Ms. Saralegui, 63, was editor in chief at the Spanish-language
Cosmopolitan magazine before breaking into TV with her ubiquitous
daily “El Show de Cristina.”
In 1992, CBS Television Stations gave Ms. Saralegui an
English-language , “Cristina.” It ended after 13 weeks of
disappointing ratings. (Jorge Insua, a spokesman for Ms. Saralegui,
said the show was always intended as a trial and ended because of
disagreements about budget.)
As part of the multiseason Telemundo deal, Ms. Saralegui insisted on
creative control, which included having the freedom to speak a mix of
Spanish and English and to host Hollywood stars and Top 20 musicians
like Michael Bublé and Beyoncé, even if they are not Hispanic.
“In my house, we speak Spanglish to the dogs, to the grandchildren, to
the kids. My kids are American,” Ms. Saralegui said. “That’s what’s
happening in the U.S. now versus when I started and it was the
Dominicans and Puerto Ricans in New York and the Mexicans in Los
Angeles. Now, we’re all mixed up from 23 countries.”
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