Billboard Latin Music Conference: Telemundo Head Emilio Romano on the Wide Inroads His Network Offers Artists

This past Tuesday, April 16, Telemundo scored a rare coup for a Hispanic television network. Thanks to its original novela, "El Señor de los Cielos," the station took the top ratings spot at 10 p.m. on Friday for all adults age 18 to 34 -- of any network, regardless of language. That's no surprise to Telemundo's president, Emilio Romano, who starred in a panel at the Billboard Latin Music Conference late Wednesday afternoon for a live interview with Bill Werde, Billboard's editorial director.

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While Telemundo still lags in overall market share behind Univision, boasting some 40 percent market share to Univision's 55 percent, Romano said that might be quickly changing. This past year, he said, Telemundo enjoyed some nine percent growth, while Univision remained flat. The key, he said, is his network's laser focus and original content.

"The Hispanic market is actually two markets -- English-language and Spanish-language Hispanics. We're obsessively focused on the Spanish-dominant half," Romano said. "That market is growing less vigorously than English-language Hispanics, but the problem people are having with that other half is that they're difficult to entertain as 'Latins' since they like their entertainment in English like everyone else."

What's more, he said, Telemundo targets Spanish-dominant Hispanics specifically living in the United States, where his competing networks also attempt to target viewers still living in Central and South America. Hispanics in the U.S. have a specific cultural point of view, he said, and require their own brand of entertainment to really engage.

As such, he said, Telemundo produces all of its own original content, creating what he called "a Hispanic Hollywood" in the U.S., particularly in Miami, where Telemundo's studios are based and where many of its novelas are shot. By creating all of its own content, Telemundo also automatically owns all the rights to different platforms, allowing it to aggressively expand its content into digital.

This also means, Romano said, that Telemundo is particularly well positioned to introduce heavy music content into its programming. Besides the Billboard Latin Music Awards, which air live on the channel at 8 p.m. Thursday night, the network will also soon introduce "La Voz Kids," a child-focused, Spanish-language spinoff of "The Voice" franchise.

Beyond that, though, Romano pointed out another nifty hat trick -- introducing live performance within its novelas, creating all kinds of cross-promotional opportunities for everyone involved. Episodes of both "El Señor de los Cielos" and "Una Maid in Manhattan" (yes, a novela version of the Jennifer Lopez movie) have regularly featured real-life bands performing in cameos. "All of this is a big risk," Romano said, "and that's the kind of thing we like to do for television."


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