TELEMUNDO

U.S. Spanish-Language Network

Telemundo Group Inc. is the second largest Spanish language television network in the United States. It reaches 86% of Hispanic households in 53 U.S. markets as well as over 19 countries in Latin America through its owned-and-operated stations, affiliates and syndication.

Telemundo Group Inc. was formed in December 1986 by Saul Steinberg and Henry Silverman of Reliance Capital Group L. P. who were interested in moving into the Spanish-language market. They began by purchasing stations in Los Angeles, California, Miami, Florida, New York City, and Puerto Rico. In 1987, Telemundo began network broadcasting with Noticiero Telemundo, a world and national news program produced by Hispanic American Broadcasting Company in Miami. Later that year, Deportes Telemundo, a weekly two-hour round-up of sports highlights from around the world, premiered. Between 1988 and 1991, the network expanded both its station holdings and affiliates and its programming. Stations and affiliates in Houston, Dallas/Ft.Worth, McAllen/Brownsville, El Paso, Lubbock, and San Antonio, Texas; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona; and Yakima, Washington increased Telemundo's coverage to 78% of the Hispanic households in the United States. Meanwhile, U.S.-produced programming also expanded, including Noticiero Telemundo/CNN, a joint venture with CNN to produce a nightly national news programs; Cocina Crisco, the first Spanish language cooking show produced in the U.S.; Angelica Mi Vida, the first Spanish language telenovela (soap opera) produced in this country and based on the lives of Hispanic Americans; Cara a Cara, a talk show starring Maria Laria; and Ocurrio Asi, a tabloid news program with sensational stories from the United States and Latin America. By 1991, Telemundo was producing 54% of its programming in the United States.

In 1992, Joaquin F. Blaya, a 22-year veteran of Spanish language media and formerly President and chief executive officer of Univision Holdings, Inc., joined Telemundo as president and chief executive officer. Under his leadership, Telemundo continued its expansion. New programming targeting younger audiences and second generation Hispanics such as Ritmo Internacional and Padrisimo, was developed. In a joint venture among Telemundo, Univision and Nielsen Media Research, Blaya also created the first nation-wide ratings service focused on the Hispanic community's viewing habits. In another joint venture with Reuters and British Broadcasting Corporation World Television, Blaya set in motion a 24-hour Spanish language television news service called Telenoticias. By mid-1993, Telemundo was in financial trouble and filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. Through a subsequent financial restructuring, Apollo Advisors L.P. became the major shareholder in late 1994. In March 1995, the corporate restructuring began with the naming of Roland A. Hernandez as president and chief executive officer of Telemundo. A native of Los Angeles, Hernandez is the founder and owner of Interspan Communications, which established KFWD-TV, the Telemundo affiliate in Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas and a member of the Board of Directors of Telemundo Group Inc. One of his first moves was opening Telemundo's first West Coast production facility in Hollywood's famed Raliegh Studies in order to attract the Spanish speaking talent on both coasts and in order for Telemundo's programming to reflect the full cultural spectrum that is Hispanic America.

As of 1995, Telemundo Group Inc., consisted of six full-power owned-and-operated stations in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, San Francisco/San Jose, San Antonio, and Houston/Galveston. The company also operated low-power stations in five other markets, and one station in Puerto Rico. In addition, eighteen full-power and thirty-two low-power stations were affiliated with Telemundo and 614 cable systems carried Telemundo's signal. This represented a coverage of 53 markets and 86% of Hispanic households in the United States.


Courtesy of Telemundo

As of 1995, Telemundo produced 50% of its programming in the United States at the network's production facilities in Hialeah, Florida, Los Angeles, California, and Puerto Rico. Programming consisted of telenovelas, movies, game shows, variety shows, sports programs, talk shows, and news programs. Movies and telenovelas represented the bulk of the imported programming. In April 1995, Telemundo added Dando y Dando to its game show line up along with El Gran Juego de la Oca. Also in 1995, La Hora Lunatica variety show was added to the noon hour. Telemundo capitalized on interest in sports with the weekend programming of Boxeo, Futbol Telemundo, and Marcador Final. Talk shows, Lo Mejor de Sevcec and El y Ella, are popular daytime programming. The world and national news programs is Telenoticias con Raul Peimbert that is seen not only in the United States but also in Latin America.

The future of Telemundo and Spanish language television is unclear. Having emerged from bankruptcy in late 1994, financial problems are still a factor in its survival as well as its competition with Univision. It does seem, however that the Hispanic market in the United States and Latin America is growing and is a prime target for advertisers and media. Given its fundamental objective (i.e., to make its programming relevant to the broadest base of Hispanic viewers in this country) it is to be expected that Telemundo will continue to move forward in meeting its many challenges.

-Patricia Constantakis-Valdes

FURTHER READING

Constantakis-Valdés, P. Spanish-language Television and the 1988 Elections: A Case Study of the 'Dual Identity' of Ethnic Media. (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1993).

Subervi-Vélez, F.A. with C. R. Berg, P. Constantakis-Valdés, C. Noriega, D. I. Rios, and K. Wilkinson. "Mass communication and Hispanics." In, Padilla, Felix, editor. The Hispanic Almanac. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1994.

Veciana-Suarez, A. Hispanic Media, U.S.A. Washington, D.C.: Media Institute, 1987.

_____________. Hispanic Media: Impact and Influence. Washington, D.C.: Media Institute, 1987.