Telemundo's Los Angeles O&O has seen rapid growth in the last year and a half and the February "sweeps" continued that trend of annual growth. But the station doesn't sit and wait for the February demo data being released in a few weeks. The month of March has blown in like a lion and Telemundo is making sure it doesn't end like a lamb.
February should've looked bleak for KVEA-TV. Univision, possibly recognizing the power of an early fringe ratings champ, and enduring a nine month long close ratings race between Laura en America on Telemundo and its most high-profile personality, Cristina Serelegui, moved the once-unbeatable Serelegui to daytime and countered Laura with a ratings favorite, the novela Ramona.
Laura en America got her best ratings to-date.
That's just one of the success stories for a "new" Telemundo. But not so new, indicates KVEA. They point to the fact that February was the station's 21st straight month of annual audience growth in prime time.
Then came KVEA's next obstacle. Just as the February "sweeps" ended, Telemundo had to cut the network's biggest prime-time novela ever, Betty la Fea, in half. The Colombian novela is still in production and airs for ½ hour nightly. Telemundo airs two episodes nightly and caught up to the production schedule. A dip in the prime-time ratings was sure to occur, as the station had to rely on its other prime-time fare for audience growth.
The other prime-time novelas made up the difference in the ½ hour lost in Betty la Fea. In fact, KVEA's prime time rating and share of Spanish broadcast viewing through the first week of March are at a 90 month high, to a 27 share of the available audience, according to Nielsen's L.A. NHSI ratings service.
Some of the gain came on the last day of March's week one, when Telemundo scheduled a prime-time "friendly" soccer match pitting the Mexican national team against Brazil's national team. Since it was a friendly match, formally there was nothing at stake other than national pride.
Although Mexico managed only a tie, KVEA was the clear winner. The ratings were so high that it became KVEA's highest rated program ever. It was the #1 program for the night, and defeated Univision's 2-hour novela block airing on KMEX. That hit on KMEX helped take down their prime-share of viewing to an 87 month low through the first week of the new month, according to the Nielsen Hispanic Station Index.
Now comes word from Telemundo of two new prime-time novelas, one debuting March 19th at 7pm. But this novela, Amantes del Desierto, is different from Telemundo's past novelas in one major aspect. It has a Univision star in it.
Francisco Gattorno, star of two of Univision's biggest novelas to air recently (Labarinto and Cañaveral de Pasiónes), has the main role. Typically, KVEA has relied on an audience to "test" a new novela, that is packed with unknowns, and stay tuned because of the story line. But focus groups show that a major initial draw to new novelas is the star quality. Amantes del Desierto replaces KVEA's weakest hour of prime-time, and the station looks to further boost their audience growth.
The 2nd novela coming KVEA's way soon is another Colombian export, La Baby Sister, with two stars from the currently-running ¿Por Que Diablos? According to sources, these novelas are two of the few that gave Betty la Fea a real run for her money in terms of audience favorites in their home country.
With these programming initiatives, Telemundo and KVEA look to buck the saying that March comes "in like a lion, out like a lamb." They're setting up the programming schedule to make sure it goes out like a lion, just as it came in for KVEA.