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Telemundo's Citizen Programmers

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NEW YORK Similar to CBS' Television city in Las Vegas, Telemundo is using its new research facility in City Walk at Universal Studios Hollywood to get visitor input on its programming on a regular basis. It's also amassing an online database of those users, which it can tap for opinions on story arcs and character strengths and flaws. So far, that feedback has helped save at least one series from cancellation.

Viewer input gleaned from the research facility earlier this year helped turn around the fortunes of the Telemundo original novela Dame Chocolate, which launched to low ratings in March, but picked up after the network polled visitors at its research center and made some adjustments. By the May sweeps, Dame Chocolate was averaging adults 18-49 ratings that were 35 percent higher than the comparable novela back in May 2006.

"This research facility is just nine months old, but it's been a great tool for us," says Millie Carrasquillo, senior vp of research for Telemundo. "In addition to bringing in focus groups to give their opinions on our novelas and shows, we also select visitors to do more detailed dial testing."

Since Telemundo produces its own novelas, such show tweaks can be done as quickly as within a week of airing.

"Writers can ask actual viewers what direction they would like to see the novelas go," Carrasquillo says. The facility also has a recruitment unit that selects people to receive videos of the novelas at home so they can further render more detailed opinions.

The research center is part of a complex that also includes a 16,000 square-foot studio and production control room facility, where unscripted programming for both Telemundo and its younger-skewing sister cable network, mun2, is produced.

Mun2 produces all of its original shows from the facility, including Vivo, the network's live music and variety show, similar to MTV's TRL. And its target audience, 12-34 Latinos, comprises about 43 percent of the U.S. Hispanic population. They are all clearly future targets of Telemundo.

Carrasquillo says while the research facility currently is being used for Telemundo and mun2 projects, "as it evolves, we would like to begin doing research for all [parent company] NBC Universal properties, particularly the cable networks." Carrasquillo says she is conceptually working on several potential projects with Alan Wurtzel, president of research and development for NBCU.