Local TV

EXCLUSIVE: Gordon: Telemundo Plates News 'Feast'

Dishes on local news expansion, HD migration 8/07/2011 04:00:00 PM Eastern

Ron Gordon, president of
the Telemundo Television Station Group, talked with B&C's Washington Bureau
Chief John Eggerton last week about the NBCU-owned station group's plans for a
major news ramp-up, which he says was in the works before it became an
enforceable condition in the Comcast/NBCU deal.

He also says he has had
recent conversations about expanding morning news in New York and Chicago once
Telemundo "digests" this current "feast" of new
programming, including new weekend newscasts.

An edited transcript of
that conversation follows.

Was this news expansion
driven by the Comcast/NBCU deal, which included the condition to add news on
Telemundo stations?

It is more than that. We had
made over the past few years a recommitment to our local stations for local
news in particular and this has been in the plans or several years now. We have
reinvested in our stations and our local news in particular. And this
commitment was one that we were very willing to make because it was the right
thing for us to do, the right thing for our station, the right thing for our
community, and the right thing for our business.

I think the results that
we've had in terms of our stations' news performance over the last
year-and-a-half to two years speaks to the value of local news. In the May book
we were the number one news station in Miami and New York, regardless of
language. We were number one in Chicago. We have had nine months of continuous
growth in Los Angeles with our news product. So these investments in local news
are beginning to pay off. This is the next step in that direction.

Public Interest Group
Free Press has been critical of Comcast's delivery on deal conditions, and
called on Comcast to "significantly improve local news production and
distribution across all Telemundo stations." Does this do that?

Yes, absolutely,
absolutely.

How many markets are
getting these additional hours?

New York, Dallas, Houston,
L.A., Puerto Rico, and Denver are getting the big items.  The stations are
adding public affairs shows. So that will be an extension of our news brand and
localism. They are all getting something, but, for example, Denver is getting
Monday through Friday news, but they are not getting a public affairs show.

So, what determined who
was getting what?

The need. In Denver we did
not have any local news so we have added a newscast in partnership with KUSA.
In New York, the market where we are number one in late news right now, regardless
of language, we added weekend news because we felt we really needed a
seven-day-a-week news structure. Same thing with Dallas.

So, you already began
this ramp-up with the launch of
Buenos Dias [Good Day] L.A.?

Yes, and we have seen some
great results, with rating increases in that time period. I think there has
been a cause and effect in terms of our news. We have invested in our local
news, we've invested in our stations and we are getting better ratings, better
results. And so, at the end of the day that speaks to why were are doing this.

So it is not just in
Comcast's interest and the public's interest, but your business' interest as
well?

Exactly. And I think
you see also, from a Comcast perspective, a new commitment to local stations
and local communities. I think that has been inherent in Comcast's own culture
and certainly ties in very nicely with what our goals are.

What is the timetable
for migrating to HD news production at the stations?

Probably in the next six months
we will have completed the additional large markets that are going to go HD.
New York is in the process and Dallas is moving to a new building by the middle
of next year, which will be the last one. We are not going to build it in HD
right now because we are going to be moving out of our facility by May of next
year, so it is going to be built in the new facility.

We have HD now in Miami
and L.A., and we are adding New York, Chicago, and Dallas and we will keep
going, keep moving down the pike with all our stations.

You plan to complete
the rollout of the additional 1,000 hours by January 2012. Will that be it or
is there more coming?

I don't want to commit to
anything, but part of the strategy is to be as local as we can be with our
stations. Any opportunity we have to either localize our stations either
through news and other content we are going to take advantage of that.

This is a huge step in
that direction because a thousand hours is a thousand hours. But I see there
are additional opportunities that may come down the pike.

So, I think we need to
kind of feast on this, digest it a little bit, and explore some additional
opportunities we may have down the road. We have phenomenal journalists; we
have some great producers and a lot of infrastructure at our stations. And I
would love to see us use that infrastructure and that talent to do more things
for our local communities.

Are you at all
concerned that you will be ramping up all this news and news technology for an
audience that is disproportionately over the air while the FCC is working to
take back broadcast spectrum?

I don't know, let's see
how this whole thing plays out in terms of repackaging the spectrum, but we do
have a huge chunk of viewers over the air. Depends on the market, but generally
Spanish viewers over-index on over-the-air viewing. We are absolutely committed
to over the air. A big part of our community watches over-the-air television,
though it depends on the market. Not too many in New York, but a whole bunch in
L.A.

What should we have
asked you about?

We are looking at the
future of local stations and how they can make a difference in their markets
and in their communities and with their audience. And I think part of what we
are trying to do with this initiative, is to continue to consolidate our
position as a very relevant local broadcaster. And this investment speaks very
loudly to that. The Hispanic community has unique needs and there is a very
strong bond between the community and Spanish media and this is something that
we need to harness and champion. I don't think you see it so much in the
general market but it is very strong in the Hispanic market. And, so I think
making this kind of investment really consolidates this kind of relationship
between the station, the audience, and the community.

This news ramp-up
applies to your 12 owned stations rather than the three LMA's or the
affiliates, correct?

Yes.

Do you see any
possibilities to put some of this programming on those affiliates?

Really the purpose is
local. That is the strategy behind this. Part of one of the things we did last
year in terms of reenergizing our local news is creating a content center where
we curate content, and this will add to that volume of content that can be
shared. But really, the strategy is local.

But, say for Buenos
Dias, could we see that morning news format spread to other markets?
Yes. I think, for example,
I see an opportunity for a morning show in New York. In fact, I had a
conversation with the general manager yesterday to say we need to get the
weekend news up and running, but that is something that I would put at the top
of the list of doing some additional local programming. I can see that as an
additional initiative in Chicago. Our brands are pretty consistent. We have Buenos
Dias Miami
, we have added Buenos Dias L.A., and will be adding
Houston. So that is our morning brand.

So, we could see that
brand in New York and Chicago?

Yes, eventually. I think
we need to digest this, but once we do that we will be looking for additional
things to do. And I believe that local stations need to do more, not less.

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