The Telemundo network, which six months ago dropped Spanish-language TV’s time-honored programming model, saw its prime-time ratings fall 42% in Latino households in the just-completed February sweeps, according to the Nielsen Hispanic Station Index. Since replacing telenovelas with U.S.-produced sitcoms, dramas and movies in September, the network’s prime-time share of the national Latino audience dropped to 8%, as compared to the roughly 91% share claimed by key competitor Univision.
“Have we done it as well as I think we need to do it yet? Nope,” Telemundo President Peter Tortorici said. “I think we’ve taken our first steps. But we’re going to take some bolder and more aggressive steps in this next groups of shows.”
Still, Telemundo has had success in certain day parts and in some key markets. In New York, for instance, Telemundo affiliate WNJU-TV has seen its prime-time audience grow 20% since January while viewership is up 11% over last year at Glendale-based KVEA-TV, the network’s flagship station. KVEA has also experienced a 40% boost over last month--to a 6.7 rating--for its Monday evening “Discovery” specials.
Despite those gains, however, Telemundo’s overall audience is so small it has launched an extensive campaign to tout its programming on English-language cable networks that cater to the same youthful demographic the network is also targeting.
“When we make the kind of changes that we’ve made, the first thing that has to happen is you’re going to lose audience,” Tortorici says. “We’re evolving as we go into next year. We’re looking at all forms. Comedy, drama, reality, game shows, novelas. We’re really trying to be as open-minded and as creative as we can be in terms of what we’re going to come up with.”
For next season, Telemundo reportedly has a dozen pilots in production, with about half of those likely to be picked up. In addition, the network has signed a development deal with Salma Hayek and is actively negotiating with actress Daisy Fuentes and producer Emilio Estefan, among others.