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Commentary: Telemundo will use English captions

Sunday, 07-Sep-2003 2:31PM PDT
Story from United Press International
Copyright 2003 by United Press International (via ClariNet)

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 7 (UPI) -- The Miami-based Spanish language television network Telemundo has announced that, for the first time ever, it will broadcast two shows with close captions in English.

The captions will be provided on the CC1 close caption service for two new series -- "La Cenicienta" and "Amor Descarado" -- premiering on Monday, Sept. 8. Close captions in Spanish will be available on CC3 for Spanish language hearing impaired viewers.

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Telemundo President and CEO Jim McNamara told United Press International the network is making the English captions available because it expects the two new shows will appeal to all Hispanic viewers -- including those who are not predominantly Spanish speaking.

"For the most part our audience is Spanish dominant or bilingual," said McNamara. "We do know there is an audience out there of Hispanics that are watching English-only television. We're hoping to draw them in with this."

One of the new shows, "La Cenicienta," is described as an original reality series with elements of "telenovela" -- literally, a novel for television. The other new show, "Amor Descarado," is a romantic comedy that McNamara described as a comic twist on Mark Twain's "The Prince and the Pauper."

Telemundo plans to air 30 original episodes of "La Cenicienta" and 120 episodes of "Amor Descarado."

The network -- which is owned by NBC -- has been promoting the shows during NBC reality shows directed at English speaking viewers. "La Cenicienta" was advertised during "Fear Factor" and "Amor Descarado" was advertised during "For Love or Money."

McNamara said he hoped the English captions will attract Latino viewers whose Spanish is not particularly strong --"people who are not maybe as fluent as more recent arrivals."

Latinos recently supplanted blacks as the largest minority group in the United States. At the same time, there has been periodically strong interest in requiring school systems to emphasize English in the instruction of pupils for whom English is a second language.

McNamara said that trend is not a motivation for the decision to attract more English-speaking viewers to Spanish language programming.

"I think that anybody who goes to school, any of those kids, they're going to wind up speaking perfectly fluent English," he said. "We also believe that if they have two Spanish speaking parents at home they are also going to speak pretty good Spanish. What we're hoping to do with this is draw in some of those that are not currently watching -- and perhaps are not watching because their Spanish might not be good enough to understand the subtleties."

Actually, said McNamara, Telemundo's market research indicates that Spanish language viewing is increasing, because the "Spanish dominant portion of the audience" is growing.

"That is driven by more people speaking Spanish at home, and by immigration," he said. "There may come a point, but it's way, way out in the future -- decades from now -- where the schooling effect will take over."

McNamara said Telemundo executives expect the English captions will attract enough new viewers so that the network will be able to raise advertising rates. But he doesn't see that happening immediately.

"This is a relatively recent decision we've made," he said, "and the bulk of the advertising (for the new shows) was sold before that."

However, if non-Spanish dominant viewers start to watch "La Cenicienta" and "Amor Descarado," McNamara said it might not take long for the new policy to pay off.

"There's a fairly quick correlation between audience and revenues," he said, "so it could show up in the next few months."