The new head of Telemundo may be the best candidate for directing the
second-place Spanish-language broadcaster's assault on industry heavyweight
Univision. He has been the No. 2 at NBC Universal-owned Telemundo for two
Don Browne, most recently the network's chief operating officer, took
over as president April 8. Former President/CEO Jim McNamara, who had run the
network for six years, exited at the end of his contract to pursue TV and film
Browne takes over just five weeks before Telemundo makes its upfront
pitch to advertisers to spend more on NBC-owned Telemundo. More than $1 billion
is at stake in the Hispanic upfront, and Telemundo's mission is simple:
persuade more viewers to make the switch.
Taking on Univision and its sister broadcast network Telefutura, Browne
says, is a daunting task. “It takes time to change habits and convince people
to go away from something they are familiar with,” he says. “But we are
Season-to-date, Univision is averaging an 18.8 rating/30 share in prime
time (which Spanish-language broadcasters define as 7-11 p.m.) among Hispanic
households, versus Telemundo's 5.7/9. Telefutura is pacing at a 3.4/5.
Telemundo is growing, with prime time ratings up 3.6% over last season's, but
Univision is improving, too, with ratings up 11.2%, according to Nielsen Media
Controlling its programming pipeline is key to Telemundo's strategy.
Univision takes most of its fare, including wildly popular
novellas, from Mexican broadcaster Televisa.
To counter-program, Telemundo has ratcheted up original production, creating
U.S.-based novellas and co-producing some
shows in Latin America.
Before NBC ponied up $2.7 billion for the network in 2001, Telemundo
languished under several owners, including Sony and Liberty. With jointly owned
networks, backers are happy to take money out but reluctant to pour much in.
“Investments are for return,” says McNamara, “and eventually, you want to
realize that investment.”
In contrast, McNamara says, GE and NBC have plowed both time and money
into the network. “It was clear they believed in Telemundo and the potential
of the Spanish-language market,” he says.
The synergies play out on-air and behind the scenes. NBC tripled
Telemundo's prime time budget to $60 million the first year. NBC News helps
elevate Telemundo's news operation, and Telemundo shows get plugged on the
network and at Universal theme parks. Telemundo aired last summer's Athens
Olympics, the first time the games have been broadcast in the U.S. in Spanish.
Even Telemundo-owned stations benefited. In cities where both NBC and Telemundo
own stations, such as Miami and San Francisco, the stations have combined
Media buyers say Telemundo has made great strides, but there is still
room for improvement. “Telemundo has great ideas, but eventually, Univision
reproduces them better,” says Raquel Tomasino, executive VP/director of media
and strategic services for Hispanic-media buyer Castells & Associados.
“It is not because Univision's productions are better but they have the
equity with the Hispanic market.”
Browne has deep roots with Telemundo and NBC. He joined Telemundo in
2003 and helped guide the network and its stable of stations through the NBC
acquisition. He had arrived from NBC-owned WTVJ Miami, where he was
president/GM, and had a long run at NBC News, rising to the post of executive