It's been a little less than a year since Joe Uva joined NBCUniversal as chairman of Hispanic enterprises and content, and by all indications, 2013 was quite a successful one in primetime for Telemundo, the Hispanic broadcast network he oversees.
Telemundo closed out last year averaging 1.42 million viewers in primetime, up 12% over 2012, and the highest average for the network since it was first being measured in the Nielsen national people meter sample. It also averaged 742,000 adults 18-49 in primetime, up 13% from 2012.
In that advertiser-desired 18-49 demo, one of its 10 p.m. telenovelas, El Señor de Los Cielos, averaged 1.6 million viewers, making it the second-highest rated novella in Telemundo history; that number beat at least one of the English-language broadcast networks among adults 18-34 almost every night. One of its 9 p.m. novelas, La Patrona, averaged 1.3 million adults 18-49 and during its run beat one of the top four English-language broadcast networks during the hour 40% of the time.
Uva says the overall ratings growth Telemundo showed in the 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. time periods—growth it was able to sustain throughout the year—is something the network had never accomplished before in primetime.
"In the past year, we've had good consistency in terms of growth," Uva says. "We've not only been growing our audience and increasing our share in those time periods, but we've been sustaining it, and that had been a problem for Telemundo in past years. There had always been a lot of peaks and valleys as far as viewership went. But in the past year we've been able to keep growing."
In 2013, Telemundo increased its primetime share of Hispanic adults 18-49 to 27%. "From February 2013 through November 2013, we increased our adult 18-49 viewer share in the 10 p.m. hour on Monday through Friday from 22% to 32%," Uva says, "and we were able to eat into Univision's audience. It's the largest share increases we've ever had in one year."
Strategy Shift Works
Uva believes a bit of a shift in programming strategy has helped the network increase viewership of its 10 p.m. telenovelas. The new 10 p.m. series are labeled "Super Series" with more of an emphasis on exterior locations than the traditional novelas. The stories have shorter runs and are inspired by real-life events. The network in the 10 p.m. hour has shifted to a 60-70 episode model for telenovelas compared to the traditional telenovelas that can run anywhere from 120 to 150 episodes.
Telemundo experimented with reality series based on English-language TV when it aired La Voz Kids, a singing competition show for kids aged 7-15 based on NBC's hit series The Voice. The series premiered last April and ran into early July, averaging 2.2 million viewers and 1.1 million adults 18-49 in its first season. It was the highest-rated reality series in the network's history.
"We decided to air La Voz Kids because children are a very big part of Hispanic families and their viewing habits and it worked out well," Uva says.
He adds that La Voz Kids has only a 10% duplication of viewers who watch The Voice on NBC, so it's not only a new audience for Telemundo, but can also be a driver of viewers to the NBC English-language adult version. La Voz Kids will be back in March, following a run by current reality series Top Chef Estrellas, which is based on the Bravo series Top Chef.
"We just started moving into reality on a regular basis and this year will expand on that with one new reality series per quarter," Uva says.
After Top Chef Estrellas, which features eight Hispanic celebrities demonstrating their cooking skills each week as they compete for a top prize of $100,000 to donate to their favorite charity, La Voz Kids will have its run. Next will be Miss Latina Universe, a series in which one competitor will win the title along with a chance to compete in the Miss Universe Pageant. Closing out the year will be a musical competition series with the working title of El Artista.
To promote the second season of La Voz Kids, earlier this month, Telemundo and the series' producers began a month-long mall tour that will come to cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Miami and New York.
While Uva touts Telemundo making inroads into Univision's dominant primetime audience, the former Univision exec has no wish to trash his former company. "Univision is a very formidable leader [in the Hispanic TV marketplace]," he says. "They are No. 1 in ad revenue and will be for a long time to come. But that doesn't mean Telemundo can't continue to grow our audience and capture a significantly larger share of Hispanic advertising."
Uva adds, "If there's room for ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox to exist and all sell significant amounts of advertising, and for all the sports networks to exist and sell advertising, then why wouldn't there be opportunities for a number of networks to share the advertising pie in the Hispanic marketplace? We will continue to do our best to make inroads and give marketers another venue to reach a significant number of Hispanic viewers—and continue to take share points away from Univision little by little."
Uva spent five years at Univision, from 2007 into 2011 as president and CEO of Univision Communications. Prior to that, he spent five years as president and CEO of OMD Worldwide, and before that worked for 17 years at Turner Broadcasting System, rising to president of Entertainment Group sales and marketing.
So Uva has been involved in ad selling on the media agency side, on the English-language network side and at Telemundo's Hispanic network rival.
Uva says a big plus for Telemundo was the decision by NBCU president of ad sales Linda Yaccarino to sell for the first time the entire NBCU portfolio of networks as part of one discussion with media agencies during last year's upfront. "Being part of that, we were able to have discussions with the agencies much earlier than in past years, and it resulted in our biggest upfront ad revenue take ever." How much, Uva won't say.
But Uva says part of the sales pitch in the upfront to the agencies looking to reach Hispanic viewers for their clients was that NBCU reaches more than 90% of Hispanics in the U.S. during every four week period. He says that is a significantly higher percentage than both 20th Century Fox and Univision.
"We reach Spanish-speaking Hispanics with Telemundo, bilingual Hispanics with [cable network] mun2 and English-dominant Hispanics with NBC broadcast network and the many NBCU cable networks," Uva says. "Going forward, I think selling in combination with all of the NBC properties can be a big differentiator between us and Univision. We are not only able to compete for Hispanic-only ad dollars, but also for English-language ad dollars."
Despite all the media coverage the Hispanic marketplace has received, touting the 50 million U.S. Hispanics' more than $1 trillion in spending power, there are still marketers who are not investing in Spanish-language TV advertising.
"Advertisers need to talk to Hispanics in their native language to make sure there is no misinterpretation of the message," Uva says. "If two of the world's largest advertisers—McDonald's and Coca-Cola—are major investors in Hispanic TV advertising, should that say something to the advertisers who have not yet jumped in? If those two brands continue spending significantly in the Hispanic networks, why are some of these other companies still holding out?"
Since Telemundo produces much of its own programming from its studios in Miami and in Mexico, the company is able to sell that programming internationally in more than 120 countries and also to televise programming internationally on its own channels in Latin America and Africa, on which it sells advertising.
With channels already in 21 countries in Latin America, Telemundo International in August launched a channel in Africa, with Spanish-language programming dubbed in English for South Africa and in Portuguese in Mozambique and Angola. Uva says discussions are also underway for the creation of a Telemundo network in Europe.
Earlier this month, Telemundo International announced the launch of a new separate feed for its TV channel in Latin America, while the original feed will continue to serve Mexico. This will allow advertisers for the first time to buy ads to target viewers solely in Mexico rather than throughout the entire Telemundo International network, Uva says.
He adds that throughout this year and into early next year, advertisers will also be able to target viewers in groups of Latin American countries rather than having to buy the entire network.
Sales reps are located in various countries. In Venezuela and Colombia, Telemundo is represented by VC Medio, in Mexico it has its own sales team, for pan regional sales, the NBCU Global networks team does the selling. And Telemundo is currently negotiating a deal with a rep for Central America. Later in the year, it will be looking to close sales rep deals in Panama and the Dominican Republic.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., scatter ad prices are up significantly over upfront prices, Uva says. Commercial time on Telemundo has been selling at prices about 20% higher than upfront pricing.
"Some of that is due to our ratings growth, and also because we sold a higher level of inventory in the upfront, so avails are tighter," he says.
As far as Uva's outlook for Telemundo as this year's upfront gets closer, he says, "We feel very good about the results we achieved in 2013, and while it's still very early in 2014, we like the comparison data so far this year."