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Telemundo Media

Univision vs Telemundo: a fierce battle for US Hispanic audiences and ad dollars


By Ginger Conlon, US Editor

May 10, 2019 | 8 min read

Telenovelas are known for their fiery passion and drama. That same passion is playing out this upfront season, as Univision Communications and NBCUniversal’s Telemundo Enterprises battle for the attention of US Hispanic audiences and the advertisers attempting to reach them.

During Univision’s upfront press preview and Telemundo’s livestreamed upfront, the battle lines were made clear. The two Spanish-language broadcast powerhouses are competing with star-studded scripted and live programming, splashy entertainment, and championship soccer. Executives from each company touted the engagement levels of their audiences, the quality of their content and the opportunities for advertisers.

One thing both companies agree on — and the reason the battle is so fierce — is that Hispanic consumers are a spending powerhouse who influence other demographic groups’ spending through their influence on culture. For example, soccer is not only the number one sport in the world, but it’s also the fastest growing one in the US thanks to Hispanics’ influence.

Executives from both media companies noted that US Hispanics’ spending represents a significant opportunity for advertisers. At $2.1tn, it’s the equivalent of the seventh-largest GPD in the world, if it was a country.

Each company boasts high levels of engagement with that audience.

According to Steve Mandala, Univision’s president of advertising sales and marketing, the media company has been the number one Spanish-language television network across all broadcast, cable, sports and digital properties for 26 consecutive seasons.

Telemundo chairman Cesar Conde noted that the broadcast company is number one in terms of Spanish-language audience during weekday prime. “In daytime, we've closed the gap with our competitor by 60% and attract a young bilingual audience,” he said.

Ana Ceppi, senior vice-president, Hispanic strategy and client experiences, at NBCUniversal Media, added that Telemundo reaches “four of 10 viewers who do not view English speaking programming” and 99% of US Hispanics ages 18-49.

Programming with flair

Univision and Telemundo flaunted their programming lineups, overflowing with high production quality scripted and live series, entertainment and sports.

Mandala pointed out its tentpole events, such as the Latin Grammy Awards, regularly rank as high as their non-Hispanic counterparts. And chief marketing officer Jessica Rodriguez said the media company’s casting and storylines “showcase real life in compelling ways” that drive conversation long after the shows are over.

Along with bringing back top series, Univision is introducing several new ones. They include El Dragon, an original story crafted by renowned author Arturo Perez-Reverte, and live marriage reality show En Amor Andonos — a two-hour nightly franchise that will serve as the cornerstone of the renewed UniMas network, Rodriguez said.

UniMas is being reprogrammed to focus on live series, entertainment, and sports. Its “relaunch” kicks off on 13 May with the launch of newscast Noticiero Univision Edición Nocturna.

Univision isn’t the only one placing big bets with new programming. Telemundo’s Conde announced that the broadcast company will be the exclusive, first-time Spanish-language co-host of Noticias Decision 2020, the initial Democratic debate leading up to the 2020 presidential election.

Ronald Day, executive vice-president, entertainment, for Telemundo, noted the desire to grow its global leadership position through programming. He cited the return of El Senor de los Cielos, the number one franchise in Spanish language TV, La Voz singing competition, and Exatlon Estados Unidos sports and reality survival competition; the launch of Operacion Pacifico, inspired by the real-life story of federal agent Amalia Ortega; and the introduction of a Spanish-language version of the NBC game show The Wall.

Scoring with sports

The biggest battleground in the Univision v Telemundo rivalry is soccer.

Univision’s partnerships include Liga MX (soccer’s Mexican league), Major League Soccer, and the Mexican and US national soccer teams (men’s and women’s). Plus, the media company will broadcast the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup and the final game of the UEFA Champions League and next season will air UEFA Euro2020.

“We made a big bet to be the ultimate home of soccer in the US,” said Juan Carlos Rodriguez, Univision’s president of sports. The broadcast company owns more than 50% of soccer viewership in the US regardless of language and more than 80% of sports viewership in primetime, he said.

Telemundo also goes big on soccer. It’s presenting Copa America Brasil 2019, FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019, and the Premier League — adding extensive pre-and post-game coverage to the latter. The broadcast company was home to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, which reached 52 million viewers, according to Ray Warren, president of Telemundo Deportes.

Warren pointed out that Telemundo is expanding its sports coverage to add more boxing matches and the 2020 summer Olympics in Tokyo. “It will be the most complete coverage in Spanish language… with 26,00 hours of programming,” he said.

Univision is supporting its overall sports coverage by rebranding Univision Deportes as TUDN (ie, Your Sports Network) and launching the digital platform TUDNxtra, which will provide subscribers to participating US pay-TV services live access to TUDN’s exclusive soccer matches.

Doubling down on OTT

Although 91.2% of Univision’s viewing is still live, the company understands the importance of making its content available across channels to extend its reach. “Media is consumed 24/7,” said Univision chief executive Vince Sadusky, adding that most news is now consumed on mobile and an increasing amount of entertainment is consumed via OTT.

“It’s important for us to be a player and a leader in linear and digital channels and to be a safe option that’s presented in language and in culture,” he said.

Univision also makes its content available on social media, in part through partnerships with Facebook and Twitter, which “need high-quality organizations to deliver high-quality content for their advertisers,” he said.

Telemundo, which plans to launch a streaming service in 2020, relaunched its full-episode video player while Telemundo has seen 250% more streams than a year ago, he added.

Blacker pointed out that Hispanics stream 10% more than other demographics, and with an average age of 27, are 10 years younger than the average of the general market. That’s one reason Telemundo is “doubling down on its live [event] social strategy,” he said.

Blacker announced that Telemundo’s entertainment show LatinX Now, which runs across platforms, is going from weekly to daily and that the company is launching food “master brand” Secret Salsa across all platforms, including experiential activations.

Wooing advertisers

When it comes to reaching the US Hispanic market, advertisers have two especially robust options to choose from in Univision and Telemundo. Even so, both companies are introducing ways to make it easier to work with them.

Telemundo offers “Prime pods” (only one or two advertisers during a commercial break), which deliver 33% greater brand recall and 27% brand interest, Telemundo’s Ceppi said. She also noted that Telemundo is the first Spanish-language broadcaster to offer picture-in-picture shoppable TV.

Univision is launching Brand Labs, a full-service solution that helps advertisers get the most from their relationship with Univision by assessing growth opportunities, tapping into Univision’s audience research, collaborating on creating an ad strategy, providing production, and measuring performance.

“We make growth simple for clients…by engaging with our community at scale,” Univision’s Mandela said, adding that advertisers who don’t advertise with Univision will miss the opportunity to reach the 79% of its audience who don’t watch English-language television.

Telemundo’s Ceppi was just as blunt. She pointed out that Telemundo has 47% and Univision has 53% of the Spanish-language audience in the US, based on primetime impressions (ages 18-49), Monday through Sunday. Then she said, “It’s time for advertisers to spend 50% of their budget with Telemundo.”

Indeed, Telemundo’s Conde emphasized that the company is continuing to invest in robust news, programming, and sports to meet the preferences of viewers in the US.

And Univision’s Sandusky said his company’s goal is to “inform, empower, and entertain our viewers and be the best Hispanic marketing company in the world.”

Clearly, the battle wages on.

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