"We're on the way back," said Don Browne, Telemundo's president and a longtime NBC executive. "If you produce your own content, you control your own destiny. In four years we've gone from zero content to [being the] second biggest producer of Spanish-language programming in the world."
Steve Mandala, senior VP-sales and marketing and distribution, Telemundo and NBC Universal Networks, said, "Telemundo's prime time delivery from May to May has increased by 10%."
Changing media habits
He also pointed out that amid huge concern about how consumers are changing their media habits, "Hispanics are consuming more Spanish-language media than ever before."
In a sign of the importance of the digital platform, the next Telemundo exec to appear after Messrs. Browne and Mandala was Peter Blacker, senior VP-digital. "We're streaming 5 million videos a month," he said.
Mr. Mandala, who opened the evening's event by saying, "You want us to be less broadcaster and more marketer," returned to describe four "360-degree multiscreen packages" combining broadcast, cable, online, mobile, publicity and custom research.
They include "Back to School," with advice from two Telemundo moms; "Chivas de Guadalajara," Mexico's most popular soccer team; and "12 Corazones: Rumbo al Altar," a Saturday evening show in which six engaged couples compete to win a dream wedding. In one segment a man is asked in front of his fiancee if he had ever cheated on her. What makes it suspenseful: he is hooked up to a lie detector machine.
A marketer's dream come true?
Mr. Mandala described the fourth show as "bigger than anything you'll see this week." He said "Idolos de Juventud" ("Youth Idols"), a show focusing on music auditions, will feature product placement but no TV commercials. "Your products can be placed into the hands of characters, just like real life," he said. "A 40-episode novela with a music-reality show, watched by the whole family and with no commercial breaks. That's a dream come true."
Mr. Mandala also said that in future the first commercial break in every prime-time show will be cut to just 60 seconds, to give advertisers maximum impact.
Except for "Youth Idols," Telemundo's lineup is surprisingly free of reality shows, although its youth cable channel, Mun2, has a new reality show about aspiring cosmetologists called "Beauty Es Cool."
In other programming, Telemundo has long promised a late-night talk show -- a format that doesn't really exist on Spanish-language TV. But now the network has found Alex Cambert (think Jerry Seinfeld, if the comic were Cuban-American, and spoke Spanish). Mr. Cambert's Los Angeles-based show "Mas Vale Tarde" ("Better Late," as in "better late than never") debuts this fall.
A comic's parody
Mr. Cambert described his upcoming show by parodying the telenovelas. "You'll see me get pregnant, get married, go to jail, go blind in one eye, and get out of jail in time to take revenge on my evil twin," he said. "And Don Browne es mi madre."
Mr. Cambert is a great believer that being Latino is cool. "Justin Timberlake wants to be Justin Timberlago. Elton John wants to be Elton Juan."
And the English-language networks are stealing ideas from Spanish-language TV, like "Ugly Betty." He predicted an upcoming show could be "America's Next Top Gardener." But he said he doesn't really get some of the English-language networks' shows. "'Big Brother.' Ten people living in a huge house. Try 15 people, chickens and a life-size statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe, all in a one-bedroom."
"I don't get 'Survivor.' I'm Cuban, and I'd be trying to get off the island," he said.
The telenovela lineup
While the audience laughed at Mr. Cambert's telenovela parody, it wasn't all that different from Telemundo's upcoming prime-time novela lineup.
In "La Traicion" ("The Betrayal"), sibling rivalry is enlivened by one brother's tragic tendency toward catalepsy, which makes it inevitable that someday he'll be accidentally pronounced dead and buried alive, enabling the evil brother to steal and marry his pregnant fiancee.
In "Las Brujas de South Beach" ("The Witches of South Beach") three magical sisters who were burned at the stake in 1509 by an evil countess re-surface in Miami.
And "El Otro Lado del Amor" ("The Other Side of Love") brings together a pair whose souls recognize each other with a single glance. Unfortunately, both are having a bad day. She has just murdered a man and is on the run, and he's trying to dump his psycho wife.