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Telemundo's Broadband Bonanza

The No. 2 Hispanic TV network strives to be No. 1 online 4/28/2006 08:00:00 PM Eastern

By jumping into broadband, NBC Universal-owned Telemundo is capitalizing on the fact that, unlike Univision, it owns most of the popular content it airs and thus has greater flexibility in repurposing it for different platforms. The move positions the network for an aggressive push for online ad buys as it heads into the Hispanic upfronts in the coming weeks.

“We have original programming on television that allows us the chance to take advantage of the new era of broadband,” says Telemundo Senior VP of Digital Media Peter Blacker. “No one in our competitive set can get close to that.”

Blacker, who headed up AOL's multicultural endeavors until last fall, helped to create a digital-media team of more than 20 new hires to soup up the network's online offerings of telenovelas, sports and specials.

Previously a simple promotional venue for the network's series, the site now features broadband video of its popular telenovelas and exclusive online series. Since relaunching several weeks ago, it has streamed “several million videos” each month, Blacker says.

Although Univision claimed 75% of the $1.2 billion ad spending from last year's Hispanic upfront, some 80% of its prime time programming comes from Mexico's Grupo Televisa, dramatically limiting how easily the network can put content on new platforms. If Televisa takes control of Univision, as it is trying to do, then Univision can more readily put its hot novelas online.

Telemundo, however, largely produces its own content, with “millions of dollars” invested in production and more than 1,000 hours of scripted programming a year, according to network President Don Browne. While Univision does stream some content on its site, Telemundo is already exploring a pay-to-download model.

Telemundo's site also offers broadband-only dramas, with interactive elements. Murder-mystery series Bárbara Luna, for example, invites users to join the protagonist in solving cases by finding clues in videos, online photo galleries and virtual chats with the “suspects.”

Other innovations include weekly blogs from talent, such as sports anchor Karim, and a section where users can submit their own romantic dilemmas to be acted out online and on TV.

“The storyline doesn't just stop when people end their novela at nine in the evening,” Blacker says. “Our fans want to get close to these novelas, these plotlines, these stars.”

Although Hispanic Internet penetration is lower than that of the general population, it is expected to increase by a third to more than 20 million users by 2010, according to a current report by Web researcher eMarketer.

And home usage among Hispanics averages 9.2 hours a week, compared with 8.5 for the general online population, according to the 2005 AOL/Roper Hispanic Internet survey.

The survey also found that Hispanics use the Web for downloading music and instant messaging more frequently than the general population does, indicating a young audience that many advertisers covet.

Looking For Innovators

“Telemundo is smart in that they're not necessarily looking at Hispanics as one large, amorphous group,” says Richard Diaz, multicultural planning director for media-buying company MindShare.

Univision's TV audience still makes it a safe buy, Diaz says. But Telemundo's online efforts could be equally attractive to advertisers.

“A lot of advertisers, marketers and [media-buying] agencies don't just look at a network based on its sheer size,” he says. “Part is looking for partners that are innovators. Telemundo has always been, relative to its competitor Univision, somewhat of an innovator. They've had to be because they're No. 2.”

Telemundo, the scrappy underdog of Hispanic TV in the U.S., is taking on top dog Univision by going broadband. In a bid for the growing ranks of wired Hispanic residents, Telemundo is offering generous helpings of broadband and interactive content on a revamped Web site.

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