Telemundo Group Inc.Born:
1946; Cambridge, Mass.Education:
B.S. in physical education and biology from Springfield College in Massachusetts; M.A. in educational administration from the University of Hawaii.Career Turning Point:
When he shifted from being a college football coach to a career in broadcast televisionMost Admired Person:
Joe Torre, manager of the New York YankeesHobbies:
Spending time with the familyPersonal:
Married, three childrenAfter 23 years in broadcasting, Rick Blangiardi has embarked on a new professional chapter running nine television stations for Telemundo in the competitive Spanish-language market
It's been nearly 25 years since Rick Blangiardi left his job as associate head football coach at the University of Hawaii to take on a new game television. His second career began in the sales department of KGMB-TV, a CBS affiliate in Hawaii. Blangiardi went on to serve as vice president of new business development for CBS and vice president and general manager of KPIX-TV in San Francisco, KING-TV in Seattle and KHNL-TV in Honolulu.
After 23 years of working in English-language media, Blangiardi switched over to Spanish television, becoming president in 1999 of Telemundo Group Inc. Now, he oversees nine U.S. television stations, including the recently acquired KWHY-TV Channel 22 in Los Angeles. Blangiardi is based in Glendale, home of Telemundo's No. 1 station, KVEA-TV Channel 52.Question:
Why did you come to Telemundo?
Answer: I saw it being the culmination of the previous 23 years of my broadcast career. It was an opportunity to do something intelligent that really mattered to the audience that it served.
Q: You are not fluent in Spanish. Is it difficult to work for a Spanish-language station group without speaking the language?
A: If I have any frustration in my job, it's my personal inability, at this point, to speak Spanish fluently. But everybody is bilingual and so consequently my day-to-day communication is made easy.
Q: How is it different from working in English-language media?
A: I think there are many parallels to working in English-language media but, at the same time, what I especially love about TV in the Spanish market is that we are doing television that is very relevant for our audience.
Q: What do you mean?
A: When we do our news, for example our local news, it's with a design to not only educate and inform but actually help people in their adjustment to America, if you will, if they're somewhat newly arrived.
Q: How important is the L.A. market to Telemundo?
A: It is the No. 1 market. There are 7.5 million Latinos here. It's the largest advertising marketplace. It is, in all candor, larger than the second and third markets combined, which are New York and Miami.
Q: Given the diverse immigrant population in the L.A. area, how do you appeal to Latinos of different backgrounds?
A: The best way to appeal is to put good television on and what we have found is good is good and maybe even great is great and that crosses over those lines, the common denominator being the programs are served in Spanish. Good story lines carry over.
Q: KVEA expanded its news operations earlier this year. Why?
A: We want to increase our local presence. We clearly understand that in order to do a really good job, to do television that matters to the lives of people, we need to be in the news business. The (news) formerly was only on TV two shows a day, Monday through Friday. We now expanded and we're on seven days a week. We start early in the morning with our early "Buenos Dias" show, which we may even be expanding further, and then work throughout the day, including Saturday and Sunday.
Q: What have been the results of this expansion?
A: We have been very pleased at the response. The audience found us. The audience has continued to grow. It has encouraged us to the extent that we're now going to expand our news operations throughout the rest of our (owned-and-operated) group.
Q: How do you compete with Univision, the Spanish-language network that has dominated the Hispanic-television market in the U.S. for years?
A: I have a lot of respect for what Univision has done and what they represent in the media landscape, as well as to the Spanish market. So, consequently, we were a decided underdog some time ago, and the best way I know how to compete in that situation is to look internally, to get our house in order.
Q: How do you think Univision's recent acquisition of USA Networks Inc. is going to affect Telemundo?
A: It's too soon to tell.
Q: Telemundo last month completed its purchase of KWHY. Why have two stations in one market?
A: Fundamentally it had to do with the strength of Univision and KMEX and how they dominated this market and have for a long time, and they still enjoy a very significant position. Having said that, KVEA and KWHY as competitors were pretty much left to compete against each other and (that was) not to each other's benefit. We now will have the kind of leverage in our combined share of audience to talk with our advertisers and to compete effectively against KMEX in an unprecedented way.
Q: The Nielson Hispanic Index Survey has recognized KVEA as the fastest-growing Spanish-language TV station in L.A. How do you think KVEA is managing to outpace KMEX's growth?
A: I just think it's been through the success of the programming, along with our commitment to serving the audience locally through the expansion of news. We're very proud we just won some top (Los Angeles Area) Emmys recently. Which is one acknowledgement. At the end of the day, I don't even like to look at the ratings, although I do.
Q: Is the audience for KVEA any different than the audience for KWHY?
A: We're working with that distinction. Clearly KWHY has targeted Mexicans primarily and we respect that and we want to build on that brand development and serve that audience. KVEA is an extension of the Telemundo owned-and-operated network group.
Q: How will Telemundo be affected by the arrival of Azteca America, which would be the nation's third Spanish-language network?
A: It's really too soon to tell. That is a competitive influence as well as the inevitability of Univision's second tier of stations (after its acquisition of USA Networks Inc.). We're just going to have to take that one day at a time.
Q: Is it something that you're worried about?
A: This is a big market. I think that the Spanish market is grossly undervalued. The audience that we reach and the audience that we serve could be more favorably treated by advertisers in America.
Q: Why do you think advertisers aren't taking advantage of that market?
A: Some of it is just the fact that it's happening so quickly. In 1997 you had $80 billion being spent by this same target group, not an insignificant number. It's the only target group that has quadrupled in two years. By 1999, it was over $360 billion. This is all happening right before everybody's eyes. Advertising practices being what they are, knowing how money is spent in all media in advertising, we're just a little bit behind the curve.
Q: Do you think that advertisers assume Latinos will spend less?
A: No I don't think that's the case. I think the numbers are speaking for themselves now. These are unprecedented numbers. You weren't referring to the Latino community as a half-trillion dollar consumer group before. Part of it is, quite frankly, ignorance on the quality of this audience and what it represents to corporate America.
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