December 29, 2000

If you tune in to Univision today at 4pm, you'll see generally the same you've seen each day on Cristina; passion, betrayal, and drama. It may sound like the Cristina show until you notice that everyone is wearing period clothing, and there is a musical score. For beginning today, Univision has moved its early-fringe stalwart from 4pm to the daytime time-period - one hour earlier, to 3pm.

This isn't just a program change; it's a major move for Univision, as Cristina Serelegui is arguably Univision's highest profile personality, along with Sabado Gigante's Don Francisco. A move from early fringe, where viewing levels are much higher, to daytime, when most people are still at work, is a risk Univision seems intent on taking.

Univision is touting the change as one the viewers have requested, that the viewers enjoy the 2pm novela, "Ramona" so much that they are responding in kind. A closer look reveals that the move may be to bolster the early-fringe time period for a sagging Univision, now that upstart Telemundo has had incredible success with Cristina's competitor, Laura en America. Indeed, an analysis of the Los Angeles Nielsen Hispanic ratings show that in households, Laura tied Cristina in the last two major surveys, and that Laura beat Cristina in most demographics in November. Given the size and importance of the Los Angeles Hispanic market (nearly one in five US Hispanics live there), Univision's programming move may have been as much to improve Cristina's competitiveness, as it is to improve the network's early-fringe and early news share of viewing.

A slide in The Cristina Show has many more ramifications than merely fewer viewers for her program alone. As it turns out, Cristina's slump in ratings (in Los Angeles, her show in November'00 was down 49% from as recent as November'98) coincides with downtrends for Primer Impacto at 5pm, as well as the L.A. Univision owned and operated station KMEX-TV's 6pm local newscast, and Univision's network newscast at 630pm. Each of those programs is down significantly from their high ratings in 1999 and 1998 and a major shake-up in programming demonstrates the importance Ms. Serelegui carries with the network. Indeed, she is one of Hispanic media's biggest "pitchwomen," hawking products around the airwaves and in print.

Telemundo, for its part, has made no changes in the time period and hasn't needed to since May'00 when Laura en America moved to 4pm against Cristina. Telemundo's ratings have been climbing steadily since before the move, but may have been bolstered by Laura's draw at 4pm. In Los Angeles, Laura's November'00 ratings more than doubled the time period's performance from the prior November. Also up are Ocurrió Así at 5pm, the L.A. Telemundo owned and operated station KVEA'-TV's 6pm local newscast, and Telemundo's network newscast at 630pm. All this, of course, leads into prime time, where Telemundo has been making significant in-roads against Univision for over a year.

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