Telemundo may be the second-largest Spanish-language network (behind market leader Univision), but Don Browne, president of Telemundo, believes the network’s “original content is king” philosophy will propel it to ultimately gain a bigger scoop of the Spanish-language paella.
Browne talked to B&C’s Marisa Guthrie about the future of Telemundo, the network’s digital footprint and how to discreetly rename the upcoming project Sin Tetas No Hay Praiso (Without Breasts There Is No Paradise).
You have touted Telemundo as the Spanish-language channel for original content—which allows for product placement and brand integration opportunities unavailable at top-rated Univision, which licenses much of its content from Mexico. Have buyers embraced that pitch?
We do a pre-upfront meeting with many of the agencies and clients. In these meetings, they get to meet our producers, writers and executives who make the content. They see the creation process from the ground up, and we literally visualize together how their products could be integrated into our stories. That’s a unique and progressive selling proposition that differentiates us. The way people are consuming content, when you differentiate yourself by partnering with advertisers and businesses, no matter how people view it, the product is going to be there forever.
So, you think more than ever that content is king?
Yes, it seems to be more relevant now, when consumers are inundated with choices.
We went from status quo, to an evolving business, to a rapidly evolving business. We’re now in a revolution. The whole equation has reversed itself. It used to be, we owned the signal, we owned the distribution and we pretty much told the viewer what they were going to get. Now the viewer is telling us what they want, how they’re going to receive it and when they want it. The customer absolutely is the boss.
Acknowledging that your ratings aren’t where you want them to be, why do you think Telemundo will ultimately prevail?
When GE and NBC Universal bought Telemundo, it was a signal to the industry that Spanish-language television was a big deal. But after the first year, it was very clear that their business model could not compete with Univision and Telefutura. The beauty of working for GE and NBC Universal is they’re willing to invest. And they invested an enormous amount of money so we could change our business model.
Clearly our competitor has a much different business model. The good news for them is it’s been very successful. But they’re going to have a very difficult time adjusting and evolving. Our primary audience is the U.S. Hispanic audience, which is a diverse, ever-changing market. We can evolve and respond to the audience. I think we’re more relevant. And I think you’ll see that over the next two to five years.
The Hispanic demographic has a higher percentage of over-the-air viewers than other demographics. With that in mind, how do you see the digital transition going?
There’s a lot of counter-intuitiveness about this. Hispanics view much more television than the general population. And Hispanics are adapting to technology much faster than the general population. So, to your point, we have a great digital business. We’ve seen growth year to year. Most of those businesses, it takes two or three years to become profitable. We became profitable just about when we went online.
The upcoming [completely separate] adaptations at Telemundo and NBC of the popular Colombian telenovela Sin Tetas No Hay Praiso (Without Breasts There Is No Paradise) has generated considerable buzz both for the telenovela’s themes [about a would-be prostitute] and title. What are you going to do about that title?
We’ve got to wrestle it to the ground a bit. You can’t have it at NBC or Telemundo.
Is something lost in translation?
It could be. Part of the reason the [original telenovela] has been so successful is it’s a provocative story. And the title is provocative. The good news is that we own the script, and [NBC] so successfully adapted Betty La Fea [Ugly Betty]. They made a very contemporary adaptation, and we’re going to do the same.