Telemundo, part of the NBCUniversal family of networks and media outlets, has lately been a ratings powerhouse in its targeted Latino demographic. With shows such as “La Voz,” “Exatlon,” “Betty en NY” and several other original series, Telemundo seems to be leveraging its new Miami headquarters and production center to deliver Latino entertainment and news in the U.S. with a hipper, more modern approach. This is not your abuela’s telenovela network.
At a Tuesday morning session, Mónica Gil, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, discussed the network’s recent ratings successes, how it turned its fortunes around and how it is approaching the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
She was interviewed onstage by A.J. Katz, a TV/media reporter for Adweek and co-editor of Adweek’s TVNewser blog. “About two years ago we made a decision that we wanted to redefine Hispanic media,” Gil said. “We wanted to make sure that we would be the choice and voice for Latinos today who represented the ‘U.S. experience,’ and wanted to make sure that our programming was for Hispanics in the United States, made by Hispanics in the United States.”
Gil noted that much of previous Latino-oriented content was based on the tried-and-true telenovela format that featured a love triangle, a villain and a meddling mother. Although that had been a successful strategy for years, programmers at Telemundo thought they were not giving the young, raised-in-the-U.S. Latino demographic content that was relevant to their modern, mobile-centric lifestyle. The network shortened its series to 10 or 13 episodes and looked for storylines “ripped right from the headlines.”
“This may not sound like rocket science, but it had never been done in Spanish-language television,” Gil said. “We also start[ed] doing racier headlines and different storylines. We made women the stars of our series. They were no longer in the background — they were the heroines of their own stories.”
This programming evolution propelled Telemundo into the lead among Spanish-language programmers in the United States, after years of lagging rival Univision in ratings. Gil noted that young Latino viewers in the U.S. are as thoroughly committed to a mobile entertainment lifestyle as any other American, and this means creating content for all platforms, including some content specifically targeted at mobile users.
“We received a grant from YouTube to do the very first alt-English newscast for Hispanics, so we’re able to experiment with language more,” Gil said. “And we’re already on streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu. Our goal is to help [our viewers] discover the new ways across multiple platforms.”
The conversation turned to the upcoming presidential election and preliminary electoral events, such as debates. “We will be launching a full campaign around the election that will consist of everything from voter registration to forums to a roadshow with all of our talent to encourage people to vote,” Gil said. “We don’t care how they vote, but 50,000 Latinos turn 18 every month, and for the first time, they are voting.”
Gil said that the same focus on educating Latinos about the election will be used to prepare for the upcoming 2020 U.S. census. “Part of our job is to help our viewers navigate systems that are foreign to them,” she said.
Despite much discussion about entertainment and sports programming, Gil said that news is the heartbeat of Telemundo, but the demand for even more news exceeds the ability of the network to deliver it. “I think the real challenge for local news is: ‘How do you get more time?’” she said. “But they come to us first — they trust our anchors; they trust the information we give them. News will continue to be a big investment for us.”