In May of last year, Telemundo announced a multimillion-dollar investment to enhance current news programs and expand the stations’ news and local programming in “selected markets.”
The decision to expand local news programming came 6 years after Telemundo eliminated local news in several of their owned and operated stations: San Jose, Phoenix, Denver, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Las Vegas.
In 2006, the company created a regionalized new production hub in Dallas called the Telemundo Production Center (TPC) that fed a pre-packaged newscast to those stations.
This year, Telemundo has pulled the plug for good on the TPC and is on track to improve their local news coverage.
Media Moves spoke with Telemundo Station Group Manuel Abud about his expansion plans.
MM: Back in 2006, parent company NBC decided to cut costs by eliminating Telemundo local newscasts in 7 top Hispanic markets. Telemundo created the TPC as a hub to produce newscasts that air regional news in those markets, but from Dallas. An apparent flawed model. Is the dismantling of the TPC a clear signal of its failure?
MA: I don’t think the TPC model was flawed. It served its purpose. It allowed stations to go through a very difficult time, at the same time having a decent news product on the air.
Now, it’s new times for us and our sister stations. There’s a renewed commitment to broadcast our parent company is very committed to the broadcast model. We see reinvigorated emphasis on local news. It’s very positive and has everyone very excited.
MM: With the reinstatement of local news, have you effectively shut down the TPC?
MA: Correct. The TPC no longer exists. The generation and distribution of content now with current technology is easier to do than years past. All the big stations are content generators and we share all the content generated in each local market. Dallas is market number 5. Because of the TPC, it has a very decent infrastructure that we continue to use to nurture other markets from content generated there. As of right now, the TPC is the Dallas-Fort Worth newsroom. The KXTX newsroom is very robust newsroom and continues to support other stations, just like New York, L.A. and Miami generate content for other stations.
MM: Have you restarted news operations in all the markets that were stripped of newscasts in 2006?
MA: The only one not fully local is Las Vegas, which has a newscast coming out of Phoenix. It’s a temporary measure. We’re not sure we’ll be able to launch one next year. There’s a direct correlation with the size of the market. Phoenix is at the epicenter of a lot going on there. We decided to make a more robust presence in that market at the same time that they’re producing a newscast for Las Vegas. It’s not a regional approach, because we produce a newscast for Las Vegas. We’re just using the production facilities in Phoenix. The anchor for the Las Vegas newscast is based in Phoenix, and a general assignment reporter is in Las Vegas.
MM: Last year you announced a multimillion-dollar investment initiative to enhance current news programs and expand local programming. What’s the current status of this initiative?
MA: In terms of distribution and technology, for the last 14 months, we’ve been rolling out HD news in 5 markets: New York, Chicago, San Jose, Puerto Rico and Houston. So now those markets are in full HD for the newscasts.
In terms of content, we have weekend news now in New York and Dallas and morning news in New York. In New York, Los Angeles and Miami have the full menu – mornings, two evening newscasts in the evenings and weekend news.
(WNJU-47 canceled its morning, noon and weekend newscasts in March of 2009.)
MM: What are the markets you chose to expand news programming and what’s the criteria for the selection of those markets?
MA: The criteria is very simple. Not all markets are created equal. The most important markets are the ones that drive our bottom line and our viewership. Los Angeles, New York and Miami are fully invested, so in terms of developing more content, there was no need there. There was some investment in technology there. The Texas markets – Houston and Dallas are on that list.
MM: Any plans for other markets to get weekend or morning newscasts?
MA: Eventually, I want to get there. But this year it’s more about concentrating on deploying these investments and executing these moves. I don’t want to promise any specific developments, but hopefully, next year, I can go to the next tier of markets for weekend news.
Morning news is still more difficult because the persons using television levels are very small, specifically in smaller markets.
MM: Are there plans for any additional news expansion for this year?
MA: No, I don’t think so. For this year, we’re pretty much done.
MM: Is Telemundo’s network programming providing news with better lead-ins?
MA: There is an overall revitalized commitment for news from the entire company. We’re seeing some improvements in the news in general. There is a bigger commitment across the board.
MM: How closely do you monitor local stations news operations? Do you have the final say in local news decisions?
MA: I always keep my eye on the overall strategy. I’m a true believer in the local general manager making the decisions. Of course, a lot of these decisions have to get final approval by me. I’m involved in the strategic direction of the stations. But I’m very comfortable in the GM that I put in the roles and I have full confidence in their judgement of the local market and local needs. I’m very excited about new team assembling in L.A. We’re always in the hunt for the best team available.
MM: KVEA-52, where you spent 5 years has undergone a series of talent and management changes in its evening newscast, as well as its morning show. Can we expect changes in other stations?
MA: I’m always pushing my general managers to hire the best and develop the local talent as much as possible. We should always be looking at recruiting and developing our talent.
MM: What are you doing to improve the competitiveness of the local news product to gain ground on Univision?
MA: We’ve updated our newscasts to HD, we’re redeploying new sets and additional vehicles across the board. We have improved teams and brought additional people. We’re also conducting extensive research in major markets and we’re improving the quality of our newscasts.
MM: Was bringing Univision talent over to Telemundo part of your strategy?
MA: We have Edgar Muñoz as an anchor in L.A., Rubén Pereida in Phoenix and Martin Berlanga in Houston. I’m always on the look for the best available talent – whether they come from Univision or not.
(Edgar was Univision Network’s Mexico City correspondent; Rubén was anchor at Univision 33 in Phoenix; Martín is a former Univision Network weekend anchor.)
MM: How does Telemundo’s acquisition of WWSI-TV in Philadelphia play into your strategy and are there plans to launch a newscast at that station?
MA: Philadelphia is a good development in improving our distribution. Last year we were developing and deploying new newscasts. This year it’s about setting new direction and making sure we’re properly executing on that direction.
Eventually, there’s a local newscast in the plan. We’re looking at a 2014 target date.
About Manuel Abud
Manuel Abud was named President of the Telemundo Station Group in December 2011. He oversees Telemundo’s 15 owned local stations in the United States and Puerto Rico. In his current role, Abud leads the Telemundo stations by developing and producing local content and oversees overall news programming strategy. He reports directly to Emilio Romano, President, Telemundo Media.
He was previously President and General Manager of Telemundo Dallas KXTX-TV, VP and General Manager of KVEA, Telemundo Los Angeles. Before that, he was President of Telemundo Cable, a group of cable networks made up of mun2 and Telemundo Internacional. Prior to Telemundo, he was President of CBS and also held various top management positions including Chief Financial Officer of Mexico’s media company Grupo Medcom and Director of Investor Relations at Grupo Televisa.