Diaz-Balart Fill-in on MSNBC Part of NBCU Hispanic Strategy

Zalaznick talks about cross-pollination efforts

Telemundo's Jose Diaz-Balart

Few in television have been as focused on the rise of the Hispanic demographic and its implications for the industry as NBCU’s Lauren Zalaznick. “This is the only large-scale growing network audience on television,” Zalaznick says. “We all know [the] general-market is shrinking…but Hispanic broadcast is growing.”

Appealing to that audience prompted NBCUniversal to tap Jose Diaz-Balart, the well-known Telemundo newscaster (whom some in the press has described as the “Brian Williams of Telemundo”) as a substitute for daytime MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer while she was away this week. Though the appointment is only temporary, the decision to choose a newscaster from a Spanish-language network  to fill in for a cable news host was unprecedented at NBCU, and Zalaznick says that it’s all part of a broader strategy to integrate Hispanic and non-Hispanic programming into a broader NBCU programming approach.

“There will be more cross-pollination,” Zalaznick says. “We’re looking to garner audience all over the NBCU portfolio….There’s a drive to serve audiences that we have in common. And it serves our ad-sales customers. ”

In recent months NBCUniversal has put an increased emphasis on reaching those audiences. At the Telemundo upfront in mid-May, Zalaznick took the stage to underline how important the Hispanic market was to NBCU. “We are at the leading edge of the most important demographic shift in modern media history,” she said at the time. A little over a month prior to that appearance, Zalaznick helped unveil a marketing initiative called “Hispanics at NBCU,” aimed at helping advertisers and marketers speak more directly to them.

Moving into the political season, Zalaznick says that NBCU sees another opportunity—this one in the cross-pollination of its news programming with an eye toward attracting a bilingual Hispanic audience. “In a big election cycle… national issues like immigration, healthcare, and education, there’s a strong through-line of Hispanic voters and news-watchers being very engaged in those national subjects," she said. "So as appropriate, I would foresee tapping our great news talent at Telemundo to serve NBC News general audiences who have a similar interest.”

(NBCU will have competition on that front, though. In mid-April, Univision—Telemundo's chief competitor—announced plans to launch a 24-hour Spanish-language news channel.)

"The way I would put it is, Telemundo is now the core of the growth strategy of the NBCUniversal portfolio," Zalaznick said. "Prior to now, I think it was certainly in 'la familia,' but a distant cousin, not a child."