The NBC O&Os and Telemundo stations cooperate in covering stories, with reporters, anchors and weathercasters evolving into “a culture of one,” especially in markets with heavy Hispanic population. And in markets without an NBC O&O, the cooperation extends to the NBC affiliate. “We have so much competition in Spanish and we have so much competition in English, that it makes no sense for us to compete with each other,” says Ozzie Martinez, the Telemundo group’s VP of news.
When two Harlem apartment buildings exploded in March, killing eight and injuring about 70, Pablo Gutierrez, a reporter for WNJU, New York’s Telemundo station, was the first reporter from NBC on the scene.
As Gutierrez kicked into full gear, filing live reports in Spanish for Telemundo 47, Ozzie Martinez, VP of news and standards for the group, monitored developments in his Miramar, Fla., office, texting staffers at WNBC, whose crew hadn’t yet arrived at the scene. Gutierrez then started doing live reports in English for WNBC, which were picked up by the network as well, Martinez says.
Martinez says that sort of cooperative effort reflects a major cultural shift that began when Comcast acquired the NBC O&Os and Telemundo stations in 2011 and accelerated in 2013 after the groups’ management merged under NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations President Valari Staab. “The culture is evolving to be a culture of one,” he says.
“We have so much competition in Spanish and we have so much competition in English, that it makes no sense for us to compete with each other,” says Martinez, who participates in the regular NBC O&O news directors’ conference calls.
“We really do share everything because it is two different languages and two different presentations.”
Martinez, who was WNBC’s assistant news director before taking the Telemundo job in December, says the robust partnerships are a departure for an industry that long dismissed individuals “with accents as not necessarily someone you want to have on the air all the time.”
Although NBC has owned Telemundo for more than a decade, until 2011 the station groups worked largely in separate silos, in keeping with the wishes of then-owner General Electric and the divide between Spanish- and English-language broadcasters that was more prevalent at the time.
NBC operates O&O-Telemundo duopolies in seven markets — New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco and Miami. In each, the stations increasingly see themselves as part of one big, bilingual news operation, especially in the group’s Hispanic-heavy markets, the executives say.
The partnership is particularly advanced in Miami, where WTVJ and Telemundo’s WSCV share a newsroom, freely using each other’s bilingual meteorologists and partnering in covering events like hurricanes.
This fall, the stations are working together on hosting a debate on Oct. 10 between gubernatorial candidates Charlie Crist and Rick Scott, which will be moderated by Telemundo 51 anchor Ambrosio Hernandez.
WTVJ anchor Jackie Nespral, who is bilingual, and WSCV reporter Marilys Llanos will ask questions in Spanish, which will be translated for the candidates. The candidates’ answers, presumably in English, will be translated into Spanish.
The debate will be broadcast on WSCV.
In January, WSCV launched Telemundo Responde, a consumer investigation franchise that has since expanded to the other markets. The investigative units produce stories, which focus on recovering money and property for viewers, for both NBC and Telemundo stations in the duopoly markets. Miami’s Telemundo Responde reporter Myriam Masihy has worked for Univision and WTVJ.
Jose Suarez, WTVJ director of creative services and programming, says having access to reports from WSCV — which has been Miami’s No. 1 station at 11 p.m. regardless of language for 17 months — is a boon to WTVJ, which is committed to serving the market’s huge Hispanic population. So is the station’s partnership with Telemundo on promotions and community events as “it really makes us a powerful unit in South Florida,” he says. “Competitively it’s a huge advantage.”
In August, NBC’s KNTV and Telemundo’s KSTS in San Francisco partnered on covering the Napa earthquake, making KSTS the only Spanish-language station that provided breaking coverage of the quake, according to a group rep.
The New York stations switched meteorologists last week in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. WNBC meteorologist Raphael Miranda did weather reports in Spanish for Telemundo 47; Telemundo’s Andrea Romero reported the weather in English for WNBC.
When Liz Gonzalez, a reporter for WNJU New York, did an investigation into the fraudulent document business — the sale of fake IDs and green cards and the like — in Queens, she produced an English-language version of the story for WNBC as well.
In Dallas, KXAS News Director Susan Tully and Karen Mendez, her counterpart at Telemundo KXTX, have formal sit-downs once a week. “We think of Telemundo in everything we do and they think of us and how we can best help each other.”
Telemundo anchor Norma Garcia frequently reports on issues of particular importance Hispanics for KXAS. KXTX incorporates sound bites in English provided by KXAS into its reports, Martinez says.
WSNS, the Telemundo station in Chicago, recently hired a new anchor who is “perfectly bilingual” so WMAQ can tap her for breaking news as well, Martinez says.
In Denver and Las Vegas, where there are no NBC O&Os, the Telemundo stations share newsrooms with the local NBC affiliates, Gannett’s KUSA and Sinclair’s KSNV, respectively.
Those stations share content and reporters in the same way sister stations in duopoly markets do, Martinez says. Meteorologists of the NBC affiliates have done weather reports in Spanish on the Telemundo stations, he says.
As a general rule, the NBC and Telemundo stations have their own managers, but there are exceptions. In Philadelphia, News Director Anzio Williams oversees the news operations of both WCAU and Telemundo WWSI, which launched news late last year.
GM Eric Lerner runs both Philadelphia stations as Rich Cerussi does at KNTV and KSTS in San Francisco.
The cooperation doesn’t mean the individual Telemundo or NBC stations have eradicated their desire for scoring beats.
“There is always competition, but we think of this as a partnership” says Telemundo Miami GM Jorge Carballo. WSCV and WTVJ offer each other “courtesies,” he says. Whoever breaks a story, for instance, gets to air it first.
But Martinez says the Telemundo stations and NBC O&Os have more to gain from working together rather than in opposition.
“We are news people and we are competitive,” he says. “Do we really want to give our exclusive up? I say the answer is ‘yes.’ Why wouldn’t we?”