Ask Telemundo Network News Executive Vice President
Ramon Escobar about the upcoming
launch of their nightly newscast in high definition and he quickly notes the
importance of that upgrade in their competitive battle for Hispanic viewers.
"The expectations of viewers have changed
dramatically in the last year, even in the last few months," he said. "The
viewers demand-it's no longer a luxury-the best possible quality."
That has made HD a major battleground between the
two major Hispanic broadcasters. Both began their HD upgrades much later than
other major broadcast and cable programmers but in the last 18 months have been
quickly embracing HD.
Telmundo became the first national Hispanic
broadcaster to offer HD programming last April and has since moved much of its
schedule, including all of its primetime telenovelas to HD. Meanwhile, Univision launched HD programming in January 2010 and expanded its
HD programming with its high-def coverage of the FIFA World Cup. It is already
offering its newscasts in HD.
But, as Telemundo's new HD studio goes live Oct. 4
with the launch of the news magazine Al
Rojo Vivo in high-def and it prepares to launch its nightly newscast, Noticiero Telemundo, before the mid-term
elections, Escobar is also looking toward using the recent HD upgrades to help
them better compete in another important battleground--the delivery of online
and mobile content.
That's because Telemundo's new HD control room is
part of a larger upgrade to its facilities, which involve the deployment of a
digital content management system and the move to tapeless workflow.
"As the control room goes HD, we will also be fully
digital in terms of workflow, from news acquisition through editing to air," Escobar
said. "Everyone will be on one digital process and that really allows us to be
fast and to get more content on both the TV and digital platforms."
The digital part of the equation is particularly
important for Telemundo in its battle against Univision because it tries to
target a younger audience and because Hispanics are heavy viewers of video
online and on mobile devices. Research commissioned by Telemundo found that
almost half of U.S. Hispanics online watch entire episodes of TV shows online
versus only 28% of the general market, and a July 2010 survey by Pew Internet and American Life Project found that young
Hispanics are heavy users of newer technologies with 50% saying they text their
friends daily and 23% visiting a social networking site each day.
While foreign-born Hispanics have much
lower penetration rates of digital technologies, English-speaking Hispanics
have about the same broadband penetration rates as the general population and
are slightly more likely than the general population to use the Internet, other
Pew surveys indicate.
"Hispanics are technology skippers, they go from
one old technology to new ones quickly, which makes digital very important for
us as a company," Escobar said. "We are entering into some pioneering territory
in this company because our audiences are themselves pioneers in this new
world....They love to interact with phones, via text messages and sharing video.
And because many Hispanics are part of a family that is located in many
geographical places, they used them to communicate with their friends and
Telemundo's Web site already attracts a number of
users from outside the country. "Our audience is no longer defined by borders
or geographical lines," Escobar said. "We get an audience from other countries
because of our Web or digital efforts and we find that they interact globally
with our programming."
The broadcaster's news department increasingly uses
digital and social media to cover international events that are important to
its audience, which arguably has a larger appetite for international news than
the mainstream audience.
"When a big event breaks like the earthquake in
Chile, we found that the use of technology and social media became an integral
tool in how we gather news, how we spot trends and how we reach out and report
the story," Escobar said. "It becomes a virtual assignment desk that allows you
to find professors or seismologists who speak Spanish and who are experts on
This media has also become important for domestic
issues like immigration, which will be a major focus for their mid-term
election coverage. "When people are organizing a protest about immigration in
Arizona or Los Angeles, the way it is done now is through texting and social
media," Escobar said. "There is an immediate mobilization through technology
and we have to be embedded in that and be where they are in terms of