TV Upfronts: 'Underdog' Telemundo Takes Aim at Top-Rated Univision

Emilio Romano, president, Telemundo Media, Jackie Hernandez, chief operating officer and Mike Rosen, executive vp of ad sales & integrated marketing.

No longer satisfied with being "a comfortable No. 2," said Telemundo Media president Emilio Romano, the NBCUniversal-owned network ups its game with creation of new LA-based multimedia studio.

Telemundo executives know they are the “underdog” to top-rated Univision in an increasingly competitive Spanish-language media space. But a continued investment in original content and the creation of a Los Angeles-based multiplatform production studio is designed to up the NBCUniversal-owned broadcast network’s competitive game. 

“We’ve been the underdog for so many years,” said Telemundo Media president Emilio Romano last week at the network’s upfront presentation for reporters at Manhattan’s Museum or Art and Design. “But now we’ve been given the opportunity to fight really hard,” he added, referring to an investment in the Telemundo and sister cable channel mun2 by parent-company that includes the new studio, called Fluency, five new telenovelas, new shows with A-list auspices including a celebrity musical competition series from Ryan Seacrest Productions, and a significant investment in sports programming. Beginning in 2015, Telemundo will be the Spanish-language home of the World Cup soccer, a rights package it poached from Univision.

TV UPFRONTS:Univision Execs Slam English-Language Nets Declines in Hunt for Ad Revenue 

Telemundo will program more than 1,000 hour of new content in the 2013-14 season including five new primetime telenovelas – the DVR-proof programming that runs five nights a week and often ends on a cliffhanger – two new daytime series and multiple unscripted offerings. The telenovelas include La Impostora (The Imposter) and Reina de Corazones (Queen of Hearts). The network also announced a variety competition show – Superstar Showdown – from Ryan Seacrest Productions that pits two different celebrities each week in a musical sing-off. It has also picked up a second season of La Voz Kids (The Voice Kids).

Telemundo is coming off of its highest-rated first quarter ever, though its overall audience is still far behind rival Univision, which still commands 60 percent of the U.S. Hispanic viewing audience. But Telemundo executives displayed a line graph that showed Univision’s audience domination on a gradual decline while Telemundo was slowly gaining momentum. And Telemundo Media COO Jackie Hernandez pointed out that younger-targeted mun2 – which features programming with a mix of Spanish and English – is still beating Mundo Fox despite a big investment in the latter from parent News Corporation.

Mike Rosen, executive vp of ad sales and integrated marketing who joined Telemundo last January after decades as a media buyer for Starcom and Interpublic Group, noted that although Univision “has higher ratings than we do, the reach [of the two networks] is virtually the same.”

And that’s because Telemundo and mun2 have focused on making their content portable across multiple screens and delivery systems. Telemundo's digital properties reach 19 million, she said. Added Rosen: “We’ve been talking about challenging conventional wisdom. Marketing partners are asking us to do a whole lot more than expose their 30-second commercial to the consumer. That content has to be able to live everywhere.”