As Univision spreads into English programming, Telemundo remains focused on Spanish-speaking audience
If you're reading this story in English, you're of no concern to Telemundo president Emilio Romano.
That may sound harsh, but Romano means it in the kindest way possible. You're just not in his plans.
Though rival Univision is branching out to English, and ABC and Univision's new Fusion network is all-English, Romano told TheWrap that Telemundo focuses on being Spanish.
"We are Spanish," said Romano (below). "It sounds obvious but it's not obvious. Hispanics are not all Spanish."
What Telemundo wants are Spanish-dominant viewers — those who consume entertainment primarily in the language.
There's are solid business reason for Telemundo not to worry about English speakers.
First, that's what the rest of its owner, NBCUniversal, does. But also: There are roughly 50 million Hispanics in the United States. Twenty-four million, or just shy of half, speak more Spanish than English. Of those, 14 million land in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic.
That adds up to a big opportunity.
Telemundo has always played second fiddle to Univision. But Romano says the network has a three-part plan to get to No. 1:
Romano believes that Telemundo now has the physical infrastructure to become the premier Spanish-language broadcaster in the U.S. After all, it can now reach 90 percent of Hispanic households in this country — just like the larger Univision can.
2. Telemundo Studios
The network opened Telemundo Studios to create its own productions. While Univision pulls programming from Mexico, Telemundo does not. Romano says he prefers to produce his own content, and have other adopt it.
The network has invested heavily in its own productions, especially the one-hour novellas that are still the backbone of Spanish-language programming. It is also using its new money (we'll get to that in a minute) to bring in bigger stars for their scripted programming.
Romano boasts that Telemundo now has "by far" the largest roster of Spanish-language talent, both in front of, and behind, the cameras.
3. New(ish) Ownership
Comcast bought NBCUniversal, and got Telemundo in the deal. When offered the top job at the network, the first thing that Romano asked was, "Is [Telemundo] a priority for Comcast, or is it a niche or [just] a multicultural asset?"
Romano was assured in no uncertain terms that Comcast saw the network as one of its biggest assets for growth.
And grow it has.
Telemundo is coming out of its best month, best quarter and best season ever, its president says. Year-to-year, Telemundo was up 14 percent, whereas Univision is up just 1 percent. Romano told TheWrap that Telemundo is the fastest-growing broadcast network, regardless of language.
One source of growth is an adaptation of NBC's "The Voice Kids," "La Voz Kids," which is Telemundo's highest-rated reality series ever, averaging more than 2 million total viewers season-to-date.
They recently filmed their own version of "Top Chef" — which is owned by NBCU's Bravo. Telemundo used same "Top Chef" set in New Orleans, taping its back-to-back with the Bravo program.
Telemundo may also try to use other NBC formats and properties. The network is currently looking at joint productions of USA programs for new scripted ventures.
Romano believes that Comcast and NBCUniversal showed their dedication to investing big dollars in quality by purchasing the World Cup Rights, which they consider the single most valuable asset in Spanish-language TV. Telemundo's run will begin in 2015 with the Women's World Cup, and the Men's will follow.
But is that enough to topple Univision?
Univision network President Cesar Conde told TheWrap previously that his network wants to expand into the English-language market by launching two English-only networks. Univision has also been courting English-speaking Hollywood A-listers for its morning show, "Despierta America."
Univision says it sees the major English networks — not Telemundo — as its competition. But that may simply be a marketing tool to command more money from advertisers.
After all, Univision recently put its final episode of its most popular novella on a Sunday night — for the first time ever — to compete with Telemundo's "The Voice Kids." Univision won the battle, as expected by all. But Romano says Univision may ultimately lose the war by wasting one of its strongest available assets on a random Sunday night.