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Telemundo launches Spanish-language streaming studio to meet growing demand

A woman stands on stage and sings into a microphone
Telemundo produced “Jenni Rivera: Mariposa de Barrio” for Netflix, with actor Angélica Celaya, pictured, portraying the late singer.
(Pipe Jaramillo / Telemundo)

Looking to capitalize on the enormous appetite for Spanish-language programming, Telemundo is opening a new studio dedicated to producing content for streaming platforms.

Telemundo Streaming Studios, based in Miami, launched Wednesday with 35 projects in development, including “Armas de Mujer,” a remake of “El Diario de un Gigolo” and the fourth and fifth seasons of “El Marginal,” which has been popular on Netflix.

The company said the venture is the first major Spanish-language production house that will create shows specifically for streaming services.

The initiative comes as U.S. media giants, including Telemundo’s parent company, NBCUniversal, are looking to bolster their offerings in a more competitive Spanish-language video market — one that demands higher production values than were the norm for the telenovelas that have run on TV.

The studio will be part of the existing Telemundo Global Studios, which is led by Marcos Santana. The veteran programmer will continue to oversee original scripted programs for the Telemundo TV network and international co-productions but the company is expected to bring in additional staff to handle the streaming productions.

Executives often tout the importance of Spanish-language audiences, and if recent deals are any clue, Latino viewers are a key part of the streaming wars.

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The new venture is a response to the growing demand for streaming content, said Beau Ferrari, chairman of NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises.

“We are the No. 1 Spanish-language content producers in the U.S.,” Ferrari said in an interview. “And we, at Telemundo, have been providing content for the streamers for a decade now. We’ve been looking at what content was working for the streamers, and we wanted to take advantage of the traction that we already have.”

For example, Telemundo produced “Jenni Rivera: Mariposa de Barrio,” about the life of the beloved Mexican banda singer, a native of Long Beach who died in a 2012 plane crash. It became one of Netflix’s most popular shows.

Telemundo also produced “El Marginal,” for Netflix, a series about an ex-cop who is sent to infiltrate a prison to investigate a kidnapping while shielding his true identity.

Since 2011, Telemundo has produced more than 10,000 hours of programming for Netflix, Hulu, HBO and Movistar and other streaming outlets.

Spanish-language broadcasters have seen audiences wane for the traditional telenovelas, which are shot within three walls in studio soundstages and revolve around love stories.

Younger Latinos are accustomed to the higher production values and grittier story lines of the shows they watch on Netflix. The streaming shows are more expensive productions, requiring bigger stars and more locations.

Spanish-language television giant Univision Communications long has towered over its rivals, boosted by a steady stream of over-the-top Cinderella love stories, imported from Mexico, featuring downtrodden damsels and hunky ranch hands.

The new venture comes one year after NBCUniversal launched its own streaming service, Peacock. The broadcast giant, owned by Philadelphia cable company Comcast, has found Spanish-language programming to be a major draw on its streaming platform. Part of the mandate for the new studio is to help feed Peacock, to make that service more appealing to Spanish-speaking Latinos.

“We are looking to ramp up Peacock — and Peacock Latino,” Ferrari said.

In the last year, Telemundo has produced 3,000 hours of programming for Peacock Latino.

Nearly $1 billion is spent annually on Spanish-language content for streaming services, according to industry estimates. Netflix alone is expected to spend about half that amount. WarnerMedia’s HBO Max and Amazon Prime also have been increasing their spending, as has NBCUniversal to bolster Peacock.

Ferrari pointed to research that shows Latinos are among the largest consumers of streaming content.

In addition to producing its shows for Peacock, Netflix and others, Telemundo will carve out a side business by offering production services to third-party creators who are looking for studio space and the expertise of studio executives who are based in Miami.

The first joint effort between the two NBCUniversal units gears up to cover Latino stories related to the election and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Spanish-language market is becoming more competitive. Last month, Telemundo’s arch rival, Univision Communications, announced that it would merge with the entertainment assets of one of the world’s largest creators of Spanish-language programming, Grupo Televisa of Mexico City.

Search-engine behemoth Google is one of the investors in the soon-to-be merged entity. Univision already has been moving aggressively into the streaming space with the March launch of its own Spanish-language streaming service called PrendeTV.

Last month, ViacomCBS — which recently launched the Paramount+ streaming service — said it would buy WarnerMedia’s Chilevisión, including its Spanish-language production facilities and content library.

“Telemundo is doing something where they have production capacity and real estate,” said Julio Rumbaut, a Spanish-language media consultant, based in Miami. “The content world is changing so fast, including the Spanish-language content, so this may be a way for them to prepare to enter the streaming market in a compelling manner.”


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