Florida-based Spanish-language TV network Telemundo is making waves, as it inches closer to its competitor, Univision in terms of viewership among Spanish speakers in the United States. The secret to their success are the fast-paced dramas that deal with subject matters that are close to the hearts of the Spanish-speaking communities.
Most of the Spanish-language soap operas used to run for about 150 episodes. Current favorites are what they call “narco dramas” that touch on the drug trade, such as “Señora Acero” and “Señor de los Cielos.” These telenovelas are shown five times a week. But rather than show them as a very long series, Telemundo is cutting their broadcast time in half, thus they present more fast-paced programs that still manage to engage their target audience. Telemundo had just started another series in October 14, featuring the life story of legendary singer Celia Cruz, portrayed by actress Aymee Nuviola. It is currently the most watched program in Miami across the board.
In the season’s latest survey done by Nielsen, the primetime viewership of Telemundo increased by 23 percent, reaching 1.46 million viewers while Univision registered a decrease of 21 percent. It is still a hefty 2.29 million viewers but the margin is getting smaller. From 2010 figures, Telemundo has cut the difference by 54 percent among TV viewers in the 18 to 49 age category.
Multi-platform programming approach
Cesar Conde, the chairman of NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises and NBCUniversal International Group said that the issues affecting Latinos the most are those being debated today, which have political, social, cultural and economic ramifications. These same issues provide media companies with a big business opportunity geared towards Hispanic consumers. Conde, who is a Miami native, added that the Hispanic community is changing and evolving, directly effecting Hispanic media, with an increasing number of Latinos shifting to Telemundo as their source of entertainment, sports and news in the Spanish language.
Conde revealed that they now produce their own programs instead of buying original programming from Latin American and Mexican production companies. They have created super series of well-loved telenovelas that are shorter yet packed with production values. These original soap operas usually end the season with a cliffhanger, enticing viewers to anticipate the succeeding season for the continuation of the story. Themes are no longer about romance, but now include biography, humor, immigration and drug dealing. Their news emphasize breaking reports and stories that would be of interest to Hispanics living in the U.S. They have reality TV shows skewed to Hispanics and have secured exclusive Spanish-language TV rights for the broadcast of the Summer Olympics in 2016 and the FIFA World Cup competitions until year 2026. These sports programs used to be awarded to Univision. Likewise, Telemundo established a community outreach program, which includes hot lines for problem solving and telethons.
Telemundo network president Luis Silberwasser added that while romantic soap operas are popular and have been long-time favorites, the super series that they have created are based on ongoing headlines, and contain more grit, a harder edge and lots of action that appeal to younger audiences. He said that although they produce their soaps in Mexico and Miami, the thoughts and concepts, language and scripts are all skewed to Hispanics in the U.S., with stories that are relevant to those living in Los Angeles, Houston, San Francisco, Miami and New York.