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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

When shift happens at Telemundo, opportunity knocks

April 26, 2017 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN @michellemanafy

For years, Telemundo was viewed as a distant second to Univision’s domination of America’s Hispanic media market. Then, shift started to happen. Now, “Every week, prime time ratings are a nail biter,” according to NBC Universals’ EVP of Digital Media and Emerging Businesses, Peter Blacker. But—like most overnight success stories—this shift, which the company will highlight with it’s theme “Shift Happens” at the Upfronts on May 16, has been happening for some time now.

Blacker traces the origins of Telemundo’s strong and steady growth trend to its decision a few years ago to focus on “Generation M.” No, that doesn’t just stand for the desirable millennial demographic. Telemundo’s definition includes two other major factors that are impacting media: multiculturalism and mobile.

The racial breakdown of the American consumer is steadily moving towards a multicultural majority made up of non-whites. From a programing perspective, that means that audiences are more socially complex and less starkly defined. Combined with the technological forces of social and mobile, a wave of innovation is occurring at NBCUniversal overall, and Telemundo in particular.

Authentic content and ongoing relationships

According to Blacker, this is readily apparent in their approach to social content. They consider the unique properties of each social platform and aim to create distinct experiences and programming for each one. As an example, Blacker noted the shift in their social efforts around their popular Telemundo series El Señor De Los Cielos, which boasts 8.5 million Facebook fans. “We used to approach these shows as very connected to television programming. When the show was on the air, we were very active. Then, when the show ended, we went on to the next show.”

However, those millions of fans had a year-round appetite. With the help of some additional staff, his social team worked with the show’s writers to create eight-minute mini-episodes to “feed the fan base all year.” Other social-specific content may take the form of a simple gif or meme. The important part, according to Blacker, is that it is that the quality and tone accurately reflect what the audience loves about the show itself. And the strategy seems to have paid off. And the strategy seems to have paid off. According to Shareablee’s 2016 data, “not only did Telemundo come up as the biggest inside NBCU, top three across all media companies.”

When the developers on Blacker’s team approached the studio about creating a second-screen app experiences for El Señor De Los Cielos “they wanted to kill us” because of the added complexity. The app, Double Acción, uses audio queues to sync up access to secret archives, exclusive photos, videos, trivia, games and more. The impact of their complex request was softened when AT&T signed on as app’s debut sponsor.

Much Ado about innovation and monetization

Blacker notes that the ability to work closely with the larger creative team at NBCUniversal helps keep Telemundo’s social strategy authentic to their show brands. He also points to NBCUniversal’s investments in companies like Buzzfeed and Snapchat, as well as its own innovation lab, as inspiring and informing experimentation.

Blacker hinted at multiple pioneering projects that will be announced at the Upfronts in May, including virtual reality and ad innovations. An advance preview can be seen in his partnership with Buzzfeed on a digital telenovela “Much Ado About Nada.” The program will take the form of 10-minute episodes that will be distributed on a weekly basis across Telemundo and BuzzFeed digital platforms. It was created in response to research about what resonates with Generation M, this younger, mobile-oriented and multicultural audience.

The ability to identify and engage Generation M has supported continued investment in innovation, Blacker said. “Our partners are trying to connect with a multicultural millennial audience on mobile devices. That is the future of their business.”

Ultimately, said Blacker, “the reason why we’ve been able to continue to invest in virtual reality and new pioneering formats like the Buzzfeed project is because we’ve been able to connect with sponsors and advertisers. We’ve developed a reputation for innovation that we can back up with scale.”

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