Univision’s Urgent Sense of Purpose

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The Spanish-language network is a striking example of a news organization that is meeting the needs of
a frightened and information-famished audience.

By JIM RUTENBERG

Earlier this year, a rumor rippled through the large Hispanic community in northeast Miami, delivered through the WhatsApp text-messaging service: Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were hauling undocumented immigrants off to detention centers in buses. The “deportation force” President Trump promised during the campaign had finally arrived, it seemed.

Panicked callers turned to the source of information they rely upon above all others: Univision, the Spanish-language television network, which is aggressively tracking whether Mr. Trump makes good on his campaign vow to conduct the largest mass expulsion of modern times.

Journalists at Univision’s headquarters here started hitting the streets, calling contacts and analyzing a photograph of a supposed ICE bus in action.

No sweep was underway, they learned; the photo was from 2014.

Univision pumped out Facebook and Twitter posts debunking the rumor, posted a more detailed article on its website and produced a television package for its stations across the country. It repeated the exercise all over again when the same rumor emerged a few days later in Los Angeles.

 “WE THOUGHT THEY WERE GOING TO KILL US IN THE FIRST HOUR.”

José Zamora, senior vice president of strategic communications.

Grew up under constant threat as his father’s newspapers exposed corruption in the Guatemalan government, leading to one particularly harrowing episode when security forces held the family hostage for several hours. Credit Greg Miller for The New York Times

Just another day covering President Trump’s America at Univision News.

By now you’ve probably heard that this is a golden age for journalism — how The New York Times and The Washington Post are warring for scoops in ways reminiscent of the Watergate era; how an information-hungry public is sending subscriptions and television news ratings soaring, reinvigorating journalists and reaffirming their mission (“Democracy Dies in Darkness” and all that).

But the story isn’t complete if it doesn’t include Univision News, one of the most striking examples I’ve seen all year of a news organization that is meeting the moment.

It is the leading news source for Hispanics in the United States, citizen and noncitizen alike — a core audience that has an almost existential stake in the Trump administration’s policies. These include moves to starve “sanctuary cities” of federal funds and to end the Obama-era attempt to protect from deportation the undocumented parents of citizen children — which, Univision was first to report, the administration did on Thursday.

Univision News has its own history with the president. Its anchor Jorge Ramos was the first journalist to be kicked out of a Trump event, after he tangled with Mr. Trump at a 2015 news briefing. Its corporate parent had already broken with Mr. Trump by then, over his campaign-opening proclamation that Mexico was exporting rapists, crime and drugs to the United States. (In response, Univision pulled out of showing Trump-owned beauty pageants; Mr. Trump retaliated with a lawsuit and a letter informing Univision that its personnel were no longer welcome at the Trump golf course here.)

YOU COULD FEEL VIOLENCE EVERYPLACE — WAITING FOR A GREEN LIGHT, IN A RESTAURANT.”

Patricia Clarembaux, digital journalist at Univision.

Fled Venezuela because of the dangerous environment for journalists. She was once attacked with a bottle at a restaurant and had her equipment stolen as the authorities looked on. Credit Greg Miller for The New York Times

Election night raised the stakes.

“On the one hand, we knew that it would have a terrible impact on the Hispanic community in the United States,” Univision’s president of news, Daniel Coronell, told me as we sat in his office overlooking the buzzing central newsroom.

But that was quickly followed by the realization that, as of that night, Univision’s news would be “about the survival of, the permanency of, the members of the community,” he said.

Univision was ready for that challenge in a way it probably would not have been a few years ago.

Mr. Coronell was an early recruit of Isaac Lee, whom Univision — under the relatively new ownership of a group led by the media investor (and Democratic donor) Haim Saban — hired in late 2010 as the news chief with a basic mandate: Build a bigger and better newsroom.

At the time, the news division was largely built around its newscasts, like “Noticiero Univision” with Mr. Ramos and his co-anchor, María Elena Salinas. Otherwise, “there was no reporting,” Mr. Lee told me. “They took cables and images, and they assembled the newscasts.”

“IMMIGRATION IS OUR BIGGEST TOPIC. YOU CAN BE SURE IT’S GOING TO BE A LOT OF CLICKS.”

David Maris, the photo editor at Univision.

Fled Venezuela with his wife, Tamoa Calzadilla, after receiving death threats and having his photo equipment seized by the authorities.

Mr. Lee started by creating investigative and documentary units. As a onetime journalist in Colombia — where his work linked onetime drug lords to political leaders — Mr. Lee knew something his competitors did not: Some of the best and bravest journalists in the world were on the sidelines, chased out of their newsrooms or home countries by murderous regimes their work had exposed.

Mr. Coronell, for example, fled his country after receiving unnervingly detailed death threats against his 6-year-old daughter.

Univision News’s top communications executive, José Zamora, grew up in Guatemala under constant threat because of his father’s work as a leading journalist exposing government corruption. Mr. Zamora followed his father into the business, but became convinced a few years ago that the United States would be a better place to raise his son, considering that an armed SWAT team had once stormed his home and held him, his parents and his brothers hostage for several hours. (“We thought they were going to kill us in the first hour,” he told me.)

The latest influx of talent has come from Venezuela, where crackdowns on journalists under the government of Nicolás Maduro, and a hostile takeover of major media companies by government allies, have put reporters in danger while stifling their work.

“WE ARE THE VOICE OF THE VOICELESS PEOPLE … PROBABLY THE MOST WEAK MEMBERS OF THIS IMPORTANT COUNTRY.”

Daniel Coronell, president of news.

Fled Colombia with his family after exposing links between the government and drug gangs, resulting in serious threats to his family. Credit Greg Miller for The New York Times

That contingent includes Tamoa Calzadilla, who lost her job after reporting on the deaths of two protesters at the hands of government forces, and Nathalie Alvaray, who left the same news organization in frustration as she tried to champion such work (and was later held hostage in her home).

Their hiring has coincided with the latest expansion effort at Univision, led by the former deputy managing editor of the Spanish newspaper El País, Borja Echevarría, to move more aggressively into digital journalism.

With a team that includes 75 new hires in the last two years, Mr. Echevarría has started new units for special investigative projects, podcasts, and data journalism, mobile video and informational graphics.

Every newsroom making the digital transition is building similar teams, aimed at producing new forms of journalism for mobile phones and modern attention spans. But at Univision, the effort is infused with a direct sense of urgency.

“WE SEE A LOT OF SIMILARITIES BETWEEN TRUMP AND CHÁVEZ.”

Nathalie Alvaray, manager of local digital news.

Was held hostage with her family in their home in Venezuela after tangling with new government-friendly owners of the newspaper chain where she worked. She likened President Trump’s surprise victory to that of the former president Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. Credit Greg Miller for The New York Times

One of its most shared digital features this year has been an explainer on the papers that documented and undocumented immigrants should always have on them, in case of immigration raids or stops.

At a cluster of desks at one edge of the cavernous newsroom during my visit, Almudena Toral, the director of digital video, was tweaking a segment — animated by a newly arrived Venezuelan designer — that she explained as follows: “What should I do if ICE comes for me in my house?”

Nearby, the data journalism team was putting the finishing touches on a statistical analysis showing the lack of legal representation of undocumented immigrants who go before immigration judges.

Then there was the fact-checking team, the first of its kind operating in Spanish in the United States. It has had no shortage of assignments, as falsehoods about immigrants continue to spread at even the highest levels of government. To wit: the president’s assertions that millions of undocumented immigrants voted illegally last year.

“WE DIDN’T GET TO RECORD ANYTHING THAT DAY FOR SAFETY REASONS. BUT WE’RE PLOTTING CREATIVE WAYS TO STILL DO THE STORY.”

Almudena Toral, head of digital video.

Had to abandon an assignment in Mexico, covering the Latin American refugee crisis, after colleagues received credible kidnapping threats. Credit Greg Miller for The New York Times

But it’s also an environment that so many Univision journalists say they are used to.

They saw it in the election campaign, when Mr. Trump’s supporters would shout at journalists, “Tell the truth!” That was what supporters of the former Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez used to do, the photo editor here, David Maris, recounted to me.

And they see it now, as Mr. Trump escalates his attacks on journalism and those who produce it.

“Every single investigation in Colombia or Guatemala or Mexico,” Mr. Coronell, the news president, told me, “is followed by ‘This journalist has his own agenda; he’s trying to affect my government’ and ‘That’s fake news.’”

So, here in America in 2017, he said, “many of us, we know the movie — we’ve seen it in Spanish.”

There’s one important difference he and others here pointed to, and that’s the Constitution, which enshrines a free press and our human rights.

“It’s crucial for us that people know their rights and the possibilities,” Mr. Coronell said. “And we are working all the time to use the investigative journalism tools in order to provide better information to our community.”

That community has a dearth of reliable information and an excess of misinformation, like frequent false reports about raids, which can mean “people don’t leave their homes to go to the grocery store or to take their kids to school,” as the Hispanic Federation’s president, José Calderón, said in an interview last week. He called Univision “a lifeline.”

That role can lead to charges that Univision is more an activist organization than a journalistic one, which the newsroom here rejects.

“When it comes to things related to corruption or human rights abuses, you really are a counterpower,” Mr. Zamora said. “And that’s not that you are an activist. That’s what journalism is for.”

Your Editor Insists

Univision Launches Streaming Service for $5.99 a Month

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Spanish language network’s streaming service debuts as company pursues IPO

Univision Communications Inc. is launching a $5.99-a-month streaming service dubbed “Univision Now” that will allow consumers to stream its Spanish-language broadcast networks Univision and UniMás live.

The launch comes at a crucial time for the company, which announced its intent to go public in July but hasn’t consummated the offering amid skittishness among media investors. Univision’s new streaming service could bring the company a new source of revenue as it continues to chart its course toward an initial public offering.

People can already watch both Univision and UniMás for free over the air with an antenna. But until now, any streaming of their content has largely been limited to people who log in to so-called “TV Everywhere” apps by proving they are pay-TV subscribers.

Now, cord-cutters can pay to stream telenovelas like “Antes Muerta Que Lichita” and soccer matches from Liga MX, the Mexican soccer league, on mobile devices and outside the home. Univision is also offering an annual subscription to Univision Now at $59.99.

“Consumers have come to accept that they can access their favorite content anywhere,” said Tonia O’Connor, president of content distribution and corporate business development at Univision. “We have not been able to deliver on that with our over-the-air viewers because we had committed to ‘TV Everywhere,’” the strategy of keeping streaming TV network content behind a cable-TV paywall. “This is all about focusing on our over-the-air viewers and providing them access to the content they already enjoy” on digital devices.

The new service will offer primetime programming for seven days after shows air and offer a three-day DVR functionality that will automatically record the prior 72 hours of content for playback. Viewers in New York, Los Angeles and Houston will also be able to watch local news. The company said it is looking to add on local news market-by-market to its streaming service.

Univision Now adds to the smorgasbord of streaming services TV networks are making available to consumers, including HBO Now, CBS All Access, NBCUniversal’s Seeso and Showtime. That’s in addition to online versions of pay TV like Dish Network Corp. DISH 3.54 % ’s $20-a-month Sling TV and Sony Corp. SNE 0.45 % ’s Vue service.

It’s unclear how many of these will garner a critical mass of subscribers. Including the price of a broadband connection, these services can add up for consumers. But TV networks are banking on incremental revenue from their new digital businesses as the traditional pay-TV business comes under pressure. Though the much-smaller UniMás is up 12.5% in primetime viewership this season compared with the prior-year period, Univision’s flagship network is down 22% (measuring live plus seven days of time-shifted viewing).

Univision initially had plans to launch its IPO shortly after Labor Day, but growing uncertainty among media investors about the health of the pay TV business caused the company to wait, people familiar with the company’s thinking said. The company continues to watch market events, and there’s a possibility the offering may not happen until 2016, one of the people said.

Univision says its streaming service is aimed at broadcast viewers—not cable customers. The company’s many cable networks won’t be included as part of the service, nor will the vast amount of its on-demand library, which will only be available to pay TV customers. Because of the targeted market size, Ms. O’Connor said she doesn’t expect the new service will impact negotiations with cable TV providers or new digital distributors over the fees they pay to carry Univision’s networks.

“We’re not making this content available for free,” she noted. Customers will subscribe to those bundles when they want a variety, whereas Univision’s app will only attract “viewers that are loyal and committed to…only those networks.”

Certain content, including some movies on UniMás, won’t be available for streaming, because those rights haven’t been cleared. But the company noted that none of its sports content will be restricted.

YipTV Partners With ¡HOLA! TV

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20150817 PG6 HOLAOver The Top (OTT) platform YipTV has added celebrity network ¡HOLA! TV to its channel lineup in an effort to target Hispanics and multi-lingual audiences across the U.S.

YipTV is a broadband television service that brings live channel broadcasts from around the world to foreign-born viewers in the U.S. Company executives point out that HOLA TV’s viewership was a key driver of the partnership.

“When we chose to serve the 40 million multi-linguals living in the U.S. as our target market and were looking for sources of content that would readily appeal to them, ¡HOLA! TV was quickly a ‘no brainer’ for us,” says YipTV CEO Michael Tribolet.

¡HOLA! TV is the video extension of ¡HOLA! Magazine, a weekly Spanish-language magazine specializing in celebrity news which publishes 31 editions and boasts 20 million readers from more than 120 countries worldwide.

The network delivers 500 hours of original content including shows such as Mundo ¡HOLA!, ¡HOLA! Diario, ¡HOLA! Fashion, and ¡HOLA! Cinema plus series “El Tiempo entre Costuras,” “El Secreto del Puente Viejo,” and “Galerías Velvet.” Most of the program’s content is produced out of ¡HOLA! TV’s studios in Miami.

“New platforms such as OTT open additional avenues for content-delivery and we felt YipTV was a perfect next-generation outlet to broaden our reach to new audiences,” says Ignacio Sanz de Acedo, CEO of ¡HOLA! TV.

YipTV uses internet-based delivery technology to provide access to 17 free international channels. Currently, YipTV carries sports, news and entertainment networks from Latin America and Europe.

To strengthen its marketing efforts, YipTV has signed legendary soccer star Pelé to an exclusive brand ambassador agreement.

Telemundo: Revitalized and Stronger Than Ever

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The Spanish-language network is pulling even with its rival Univision

Shows that reinvent the popular telenovela model have fueled the network’s popularity

Investments by NBCUniversal have pumped up the news division

On a recent Thursday afternoon inside the cavernous Telemundo Studios in Medley, director Luis Manzo yells, “Action!” A handsome young man (played by Mexican heartthrob Eugenio Siller) is visiting a sickly woman (Laura Flores, the Mexican actress and singer) in a hospital room. A crew of more than a dozen people — camera operators, grips, makeup artists — looks on as the short scene is played out. The entire thing takes 15 minutes. Then Manzo says, “Cut!” and the crew moves on the next set.

The scene will be part of ¿Quién es quién? (Who is Who?), a romantic comedy about two twin brothers, one rich and one poor, who switch identities in order to resolve each other’s problems. Naturally, complications ensue — probably a new one every episode, to be sure you’ll tune back in the following night.

When ¿Quién es quién? premieres on Telemundo early next year, it will be the latest volley in NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises’ ongoing mission to gain ground on its rival Univision, which has the largest audience of Spanish-language TV viewers in the world. This summer, Telemundo ran a full-page ad in The New York Times crowing about its latest success: narrowing its prime-time ratings gap with Univision from 1.2 million viewers in July 2013 to 238,000 in July 2015. For the week of July 20-24, the difference between the two networks was only 40,000 viewers.

Telemundo is drawing bigger audiences through a multi-platform approach:

  • Telenovelas and “super series,” or ongoing telenovelas with fewer episodes, higher production values and new seasons each year, focusing on themes beyond the traditional romantic soap opera. New elements include drug dealers, immigration, humor and biography.
  • An aggressive approach to TV news with an emphasis on breaking stories and reports of particular interest to U.S. Hispanics from regions such as Venezuela and Mexico.
  • Reality TV shows geared to Hispanics, such as La Voz Kids, a talent competition patterned after NBC’s smash hit The Voice but focusing on child performers.
  • Sports, including exclusive Spanish-language TV rights to air the 2016 Summer Olympics and the FIFA World Cup competitions through 2026, previously held by Univision.
  • Community outreach, including telethons and problem-solving hot lines for viewers.

“We’re living in a fascinating time in our country’s history,” says Cesar Conde, the newly appointed chairman of NBCUniversal International Group and NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises. “The issues that matter most to Latinos are at the center of our country’s political debate right now, and they have ramifications that are economic, cultural, social and political. We’re going to see this play out in the 2016 election cycle.

“That also opens up a huge business opportunity for media companies targeting Hispanics,” says Conde, a Miami native. “Our community is evolving and changing, and we have to take that into account. There is a tectonic shift taking place in Hispanic media right now. Latinos are increasingly choosing Telemundo as their preferred home for Spanish language news, sports and entertainment, as well as the place to empower themselves and their families.”

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, a record 33.2 million Hispanics in the U.S. — 68 percent of all Hispanics ages 5 and up — speak English proficiently. But the same study found a record 35.8 million Hispanics still speak Spanish at home. And as the total Hispanic population grows, so does the number of Spanish speakers — making the potential audience for Spanish-language television larger than ever.

Since its launch in 1987, Telemundo has lived under the shadow of its rival Univision, which has the largest audience of Spanish-language television viewers in the world. But after its sale to NBC (which later became NBC/Universal) in 2002 for $2.7 billion, and then NBCUniversal’s acquisition by Comcast in 2013 for $16.7 billion, the network was infused with cash and resources.

Instead of having to purchase original programming from production companies in Mexico and Latin America, Telemundo started making its own — and they have caught on. This summer, the network notched its highest August ratings ever, averaging 843,000 adults aged 18-49 and 387,000 adults aged 18-34 in Monday-to-Friday prime time. That narrowed the gap with Univision to its smallest number ever, of only 124,000 and 29,000 fewer viewers, respectively.

In April, the third season premiere of El Señor de los Cielos (Lord of the Skies), Telemundo’s runaway hit about a powerful drug dealer (played by Rafael Amaya), set a new record as the highest rated premiere in the network’s history, averaging 2,681,000 total viewers and 1,760,000 adults aged 18-49, even beating English-language networks CBS and ABC.

Reinventing the telenovela

El Señor de los Cielos, which airs at 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and launches its fourth season in April 2016, has been Telemundo’s most successful example of its “super series” model, conceived to remove the one stigma that had long haunted telenovelas as programs only your grandparents watched. Telemundo’s latest entry into the field, the musical Celia Cruz biopic Celia, premiered at 8 p.m. Oct. 14 to a cumulative audience of 2,375,000 total viewers and 926,000 adults 18-49, according to Nielsen. In Miami, it was the most watched program of any network, regardless of language.

“Novelas have an average of 120 episodes with a beginning, a middle and an end and that’s it,” says Manuel Martinez, president of Telemundo Station Group, which serves Spanish-speaking viewers via 17 stations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, including New York, Boston, Los Angeles and Chicago. “Super series are shorter and you don’t close the story. If you liked the first season, you’ll come back for the second. And because it airs Monday-Friday, it’s not appointment television, like weekly English-language series. They end with a cliffhanger, so you have to tune in tomorrow to find out what’s happening and not get left behind.”

“The telenovela tradition is the melodrama, the poor girl in love with the wealthy guy,” says Luis Silberwasser, president of Telemundo network. “I’m not discounting those. They are valid stories and they’ve been popular for a long time. But when you change your mind-set and say ‘OK, let’s try to get the U.S. Hispanic audience,’ the whole world open in terms of storylines. We’ve changed the genres we’re playing with. Super series like El Señor de los Cielos, are more action-oriented, edgier, grittier and based on current headlines. They’re drawing a lot of young viewers. We can’t pretend Game of Thrones and The Sopranos don’t exist. Sticking solely to melodramas is not right. Audiences love morally complex characters. And now with Celia, we’re doing something new, a musical biography about a singer who is beloved by all Hispanics.”

Silberwasser also stresses the importance of home-grown programming versus purchasing shows produced in Latin America.

“We produce in Miami and Mexico, but the scripts, language, thinking and concepts are all geared toward people who live in the U.S.,” he says. “That drives what our programming strategy is about — to find stories that resonate with our viewers in New York, Miami, San Francisco, Houston and L.A., not the people who live in other countries. El Señor de los Cielos is the story of a man who comes from humble beginnings and becomes a Mexican drug lord. Why is it relevant? Not because we live that story, but because it’s in the news every day. It’s the kind of story we are all familiar with.”

The super-series concept allows Telemundo to negotiate advertising rates because they are selling a proven show instead of a new one (the third year of El Señor de los Cielos enjoyed the highest ratings of any season thus far). According to Kantar Media, the amount of advertising dollars spent on Spanish television in the U.S. climbed from $6281.1 million in 2013 to $7,206.7 million in 2014, an increase of 14.7 percent (overall TV ad spending in 2014, including network, cable and syndication, was $78,130 million).

The super-series model was an extension of that same line of thinking — updating and rethinking the long-standing telenovela format for U.S. audiences while maintaining the daily connection fans have with their favorite soaps.

In terms of quality, Telemundo’s programs are radically superior to what came before because they are made with a U.S. audience in mind.

“It’s a breath of fresh air to see someone doing something original in the Latin market,” says Miguel Sarmiento, an independent news analyst and former Spanish online supervisor for The Associated Press. “This hadn’t happened in a while. The previous generation of Spanish-language TV appealed to the lowest common denominator. They played into the media’s idea of what would sell to Hispanics, which was machista, xenophobic and anti-feminist. I hope their new normal will continue to respect to women and minorities and stop referring to Americans as gringos. Telemundo is doing the right thing: Developing a good brand with original content. You have to respect your audience and talk to them if you want them to talk to you. That’s the golden rule of media.”

Manuel Ballagas, a Hispanic media consultant and former editor for El Nuevo Herald and The Wall Street Journal Americas, says Telemundo’s perception of its audience matches the increasing multitude of cultures and colors that make up the “U.S. Hispanic” demographic.

“There’s no way of grouping millions of people of different national origins and cultures just because they happen to have immigrated to the United States at some point and happen to speak varying shades of Castillian,” Ballagas says. “The ‘Hispanic audience’ is composed of Mexicans, Central Americans, South Americans and Caribbean Americans, all with their own informational needs, tastes and entertainment preferences.

“While Univision addresses an audience that’s mostly Spanish language-dependent and — perhaps most important — overwhelmingly Mexican, Telemundo seems to have its cross hairs on a more assimilated, mostly bilingual and strikingly diverse audience. Most importantly, Telemundo has dramatically altered the usual set of all-Caucasian characters by including Latin American blacks in the recent series about the life of the late Cuban singer Celia Cruz. These new approaches have helped push Telemundo forward in the ratings.”

Emphasis on local news

Filmed programming is only one part of Telemundo’s arsenal. In 2014, thanks to a “significant” investment by NBCUniversal, the Telemundo Station Group was able to debut snazzy new state-of-the-art sets in 11 markets (including the Telemundo 51 WSCV station in Miramar), hire more than 160 new employees, launch a daily 5:30 p.m. newscast and add nine Telemundo Responde (Telemundo Responds) consumer investigative units to address issues called in by viewers to a control center in Dallas, from a shady auto mechanic who didn’t perform the promised repairs to a tax agency that cheated clients out of their returns. Thus far, the unit has recovered more than $3.5 million for consumers.

Other ongoing local-centric shows include the daily 10 a.m. newsmagazine Acceso Total, an entertainment show that showcases South Florida talent, and Telemundo’s annual telethon to benefit the Miami-based nonprofit Liga Contra el Cáncer (League Against Cancer), which generates the bulk of the organization’s yearly operating budget.

“We want to make sure we are the stations of the community,” Martinez says. “We want to be the station that breaks news and covers weather for our audience. We have a specific relationship with our audience, because if you’re not 100 percent fluent in English, you come to us every day for your entertainment and information. NBCUniversal believes in the power of the stations and local television. They are giving us the tools to be competitive. There’s only so much you can do with creativity. You also need the resources.”

Ten Telemundo-owned stations (including Miramar) also share news and information with their sister NBC-owned station. The duopolies allow the two station groups to pool resources and staffing, with bilingual journalists occasionally delivering on-camera reports for both stations. The result? Telemundo 51’s 11 p.m. newscast has bested Univision in the 18-49 and 25-54 demos for the past 30 consecutive months.

“Our strategy is spot news and to report live from as many places as we can,” says Jorge Carballo, president and general manager of Telemundo 51 Miami WSCV. “On a normal day we have three or four reporters out in the field. We converted photographers’ trucks to mobile units so they can broadcast live. We cover more news than anybody in this market, probably with the exception of WSVN. That’s the secret to our success, live breaking news wherever it happens.”

Carballo, who began his career decades ago selling cable TV door-to-door, still remembers the days when Telemundo was seen as the David to Univision’s Goliath.

“I remember being at a focus group and when Telemundo came up, the people there said, ‘Those poor guys. They are trying really hard but they don’t have any money,’ ” Carballo says, smiling. “I laughed, because it was true. But with NBCUniversal igniting us with dollars and the duopolies, this is now the ideal place to be.”

Closing the ratings gap

The numbers back him up. In prime time (7-11 p.m.), Telemundo 51 was the most watched station in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale market among adults 18 to 49 (2.8 rating) and adults 25 to 54 (3.4 rating). According to data provided by Nielsen, Univision averaged 2,900,000 viewers versus Telemundo’s 1,200,000 in prime time during a four-week period in September/October of 2014. During the same period in 2015, Univision’s viewers dropped to 2,290,000 while Telemundo’s rose to 1,450,000, closing the gap by half.

On Facebook, the Telemundo page has a whopping 6.8 million likes. Already up and running is TeleXitos, a cable channel which broadcasts hit network TV shows (Miami Vice, Law & Order, Homicide) dubbed in Spanish. To fill the void left by Sabado Gigante, the hugely popular variety show that aired for 53 seasons and ended in September, Telemundo is unveiling its own family-friendly variety show, ¡Qué Noche! premiering on Nov. 7. A Spanish-language version of Big Brother, the long-running CBS reality show about strangers living in a house filled with cameras, will premiere in 2016.

And Conde promises Telemundo’s growth is just getting started.

“NBCUniversal believes in the potential of Telemundo Enterprises,” Conde says. “We have already made considerable investments and will continue to show our commitment, not only to the core business, but also to the long term future of Telemundo Enterprises in South Florida.

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