World opens up for Telemundo

NBC's Spanish-language network increases market

NBC may be floundering in the recession, but its Spanish-language sibling Telemundo is riding it out, thanks to its robust and diverse international business.

Since it began producing original programming five years ago, Telemundo has grown into the world’s second-largest producer of Spanish-language content behind Mexican juggernaut Televisa, shrewdly exploiting its programs across platforms in multiple territories.

In the U.S., Telemundo still trails Hispanic market leader Univision in share and ratings, but it has increased its market share the past year from 23% to 30%.

Now it’s set to take on the TV biz south of the border.

On Aug. 1, Telemundo launched a joint-venture cable channel aimed at Mexico and Latin America as part of its 16-month-old alliance with Televisa. Telemundo will initially go out to some 3.5 million cable and satellite subscribers in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica.

Televisa’s cable/sat subsid Televisa Networks is in talks with other countries to deliver Telemundo to the rest of the region. “We hope to reach most of Latin America by the end of the year,” says Marcos Santana, prexy of Telemundo Intl.

Canal Telemundo will present a daily eight-hour programming mix that will include two hours of telenovelas and original Telemundo news programs such as “Al Rojo vivo” (Red hot), “Caso cerrado” (Case Closed) and “Levantate” (Wake Up) as well as specials.

Televisa Networks will provide technical and sales support, according to VP Bruce Boren.

In Mexico Canal 9, one of Televisa’s four channels, has raised its overall share by 15% since it launched a four-hour block of original Telemundo telenovelas in March 2008 via the new partners’ content-sharing pact. In exchange, Televisa gave Telemundo exclusive U.S. broadcast rights to premier Mexican soccer matches.

Distribution of Telemundo’s shows in Mexico also extend to mobile devices (ringtones, wallpaper, etc.) and Televisa’s website esmas.com where the microsites of Telemundo programs have seen monthly traffic jump 98% for page views and 220% for video views.

“Our presence in Mexico has helped to raise cross-border awareness of our content and brand,” says Telemundo prexy Don Browne. “This helps to create a buzz for our programming in the U.S., which is an important residual benefit to us.”

In Asia, Telemundo has made inroads in Japan, where its telenovelas “Marina” and “El cuerpo del deseo” (Body of Desire) are delivered on cable, satellite, IPTV and VOD. It released its telenovela “Second Chance” on homevideo in Japan.

“Our telenovelas are the only Latino soaps airing in Vietnam, Cambodia and Korea,” Santana says.

Meanwhile, Indonesia, Turkey, Vietnam, the Philippines and South Korea are producing local versions of Telemundo soaps.

In October 2007, Korean broadcaster SBS struck a landmark pact with Telemundo, which gives Telemundo distribution rights to part of SBS’ catalogue of soaps in Latin America. So far, SBS’ “Stairway to Heaven” has been a hit in Ecuador, Chile, Uruguay and Bolivia.

Future plans include a cable/satellite channel in Spain, according to Santana. Telemundo has also expressed interest in entering the Colombian market, where plans are afoot to allow a third terrestrial web.

“It makes sense to us, as we produce a significant amount of content in Colombia,” Browne says, citing the shift to inhouse production as the key to growth.

By producing its own content, Telemundo has had the ability and flexibility to offer advertisers a more organic integration of their products and services as well as exploit a diversity of distribution platforms.

“If we had remained a one-dimensional company, we would be out of business by now,” Browne says.

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