Saturday, May 18, 2024

In a battle between two giants, Telemundo seems to be winning

Five years ago, Telemundo had less than half the audience of rival Univision and was headquartered in a former shoe warehouse in a neighborhood that flooded each time a hurricane blew through Miami.

“Hispanic media today is no longer about habit. It’s about choice,” said Cesar Conde, chairman of NBCUniversal International Group and NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, units of Comcast.

Today, the Spanish-language broadcaster owned by Comcast Corp. is nipping at Univision’s heels in the ratings, consistently beating it in the 10 p.m. time slot with edgy narconovelas aimed at a new generation of bilingual Latinos.

Meanwhile, Univision’s finances have come under strain, and people close to Univision say one contributing factor has been the growth of Telemundo. Comcast began heavily investing in Telemundo soon after it acquired the broadcaster through its 2011 purchase of NBCUniversal, snapping up Spanish-language World Cup rights for 2018 and 2022 for $600 million.

Latino media haven’t been spared the ratings declines that competition from streaming services has brought to the television industry, but Telemundo backed by Comcast, has seized on shifting preferences among the U.S. Latino population. The company has spent more on pricier productions—filming scenes outdoors, blowing up cars and throwing people off bridges—to appeal to viewers.

As Latino immigration has slowed over the last decade—especially from Mexico, the Latino population has become increasingly dominated by Latinos born in the U.S., who can toggle between cultures. In response, Telemundo has made its shows look more like English-language TV, with shorter, recurring series that are largely produced in the U.S. while Univision still features its telenovelas, which are produced in Mexico by Mexican TV giant Grupo Televisa SAB.