Telemundo began in 1984 as Net Span, bringing together several Spanish-language independent stations not affiliated with the Spanish International Network (SIN, now Univision ), though the ownership of these television stations began in the early 1980's. The group included WNJU in New York City, KVEA in Los Angeles, WCIU in Chicago, KSTS in San Jose/San Francisco and WSCV in Ft. Lauderdale/Miami. In 1986, Net Span was purchased by Saul Steinberg and Henry Silverman. The duo later purchased the oldest television station in Puerto Rico, WKAQ-TV, known on-air as "Telemundo Canal 2." Steinberg and Silverman changed Net Span's name to Telemundo in order to trade on the well-known Telemundo name. Soon afterward, Noticiero Telemundo/HBC with Jorge Gestoso and Lana Montalban began broadcasting out of a warehouse in Hialeah, Florida. The staff was made mostly of former SIN employees who defected the network when it was announced that Mexican television news anchor Jacobo Zabludosky would be heading north to anchor the newscast. This never happened, as Zabludosky stayed back in Mexico, but the cornerstone of what would become the second Hispanic broadcast network in the United States was laid. A year later Deportes Telemundo, a two-hour sports show, began airing nationally. Between 1988 and 1991, the network acquired stations in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Washington state. The network then decided to outsource their news division in 1988 and hired CNN to produce 2 newscasts under the name of "Noticiero Telemundo CNN". It was anchored by Gestoso, who recently been transferred to Atlanta, and Miami native Maria Elvira Salazar. Salazar left after her contract expired and returned to Miami to report for Noticiero Univision. In her place, CNN hired Miss Universe 1987 Cecilia Bolocco. Bolocco had no journalism experience, having studied architecture in her native land. A year later, Bolocco was transferred to Miami to anchor a lifestyles program more atune with her skills, called La Buena Vida. In 1992, Telemundo went through another management change, this time under former Univision president Joaquin Blaya. Blaya brought in a large number of former Univision executives in hopes of, as one observer put it, "beating his former employer to death with a Piñata stick." Television shows were cancelled or merged. Longtime Telemundo executives were released and in 1993, Telemundo branded themselves with the campaign, Arriba, Telemundo, Arriba. Bolocco saw her show merged with newsmagazine Ocurrió Así anchored by Enrique Gratas. Contacto, an afternoon women's magazine, was revamped as Club Telemundo. Two of its original anchors were fired. It kept Mexican soap star Rebecca Rambal as main hostess alongside new arrival Pedro Luis Garcia, a radio disc jockey from New York. Gratas, Bolocco, Rambal and Guerra are no longer with the network; Gratas is now anchoring Noticiero Univision, Ultima Hora and Bolocco went back to her native Chile after starring in a soap opera Morelia and married former Argentine President Carlos Saul Menem. She gave birth to the couple's son in 2003. Rambal lives in Los Angeles and Garcia went back to New York to work for WNJU. In 1993, Telemundo began a trend that has been proven to be semi sucessful: Producing their own soap operas. The first soap to be produced and bought by the network was "Angelica, mi vida" in 1988. The trend continued with "Marielena", a soap opera written by drama doyenne Delia Fiallo exclusively for the network. "Marielena" was the story of a young woman who falls in love with a married man. The stars of the soap were Mexican Lucia Mendez, Eduardo Yanez and Cuban Zuli Montero who portrayed the older woman married to Yanez's character. The soap was so popular that was stretched by 50 extra episodes bringing new characters and disposing of others. The trend continued with "Guadalupe" and "Tres Destinos". In no time, Telemundo saw their productions being courted by international markets and syndicators. This ruffled feathers among the industry's leader, Televisa, who saw how to remedy the situation by buying the production house responsible for making the Telemundo soaps: Capitalvision. They bought them for an astronomical amount only to shut them down two months later and put them out of business. By this time however, the "suits" decided to utilize the Telemundo Puerto Rico facilities to produce their soaps, after producer CAPITALVISION was bought by rival Televisa of Mexico. Thinking they could replicate the same success in San Juan, Telemundo set to produce "Senora Tentacion", again with Lucia Mendez. "Senora" turned out to be a disaster waiting to happen. Mendez's ego could not fit inside a jumbo jet and the production was plagued by delays with the production staff, changed scripts, backstage drama forcing Telemundo to cut the production in almost half. Mendez has not worked for Telemundo nor Televisa again, but for TV AZTECA starring in soaps that have never been able to match the success of "Marielena" Blaya and his employees incurred astronomical expenses without the much anticipated revenue, and then were terminated. Telemundo found itself trying to reinvent itself under the leadership of Roland Hernandez in 1995. In 1998, Telemundo was bought by a partnership between cable's Liberty Media and entertainment conglomerate Sony Pictures Entertainment Helmed by yet another management team under the leadership of former CBS executive Peter Tortoricci, hopes of attracting the bilingual market were explored. Lo mejor de los dos Mundos ("The best of both worlds") campaign was launched. Several billboards went up in cities such as Miami and San Francisco heralding a "new era" for Telemundo. This new executive team--Tortoricci, Rachel Wells, Alan Sokol and controversial programming executive Nely Galan--decided to get away from the warehouse atmosphere of the production facilities base in working class Hialeah. The network set up new corporate offices at the posh Waterford Complex in Santa Monica, California. At the time it was decided to produce Latino versions of popular American television shows owned by Sony. These included Charlie's Angels, One Day at a Time, and Starsky and Hutch. The network also tried its luck by having a priest anchor a talk show. "Padre Alberto", Father Alberto Cutie, a Miami priest was tapped in to host this program. Sadly, this venture also failed. If Telemundo had any traces of ratings, this experiment was the last nail on its coffin. Telemundo became the laughing stock of the industry. Galan's ideas and shows all flopped--in fact, viewers left the network in droves. Local stations lost the little audience share they had, and heads began to roll once again. The Tortoricci team was soon out, and Jim MacNamara, a former Universal Pictures executive born in Panama, was hired to preside over embattled Telemundo. MacNamara began programming a schedule heavy on telenovelas. Under his leadership, Telemundo bought alternative programming from distributors from Brazil , Colombia and Mexico.
His strategy worked, and U.S. Hispanics saw a new Telemundo emerging with hits such as "Xica de Silva", a Brazilian soap, and the most popular export from Colombia: "Soy Betty, la Fea". "Pedro el Escamoso" "El Clon", "Terra Nostra", followed, and it seemed for a time that the network was finally able to compete. Local stations in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York added morning and weekend newscasts to be more competitive. Also a Late Night Variety Show hosted by Paul Bouche "A Oscuras Pero Encendidos" (which started as a very sucessful local Miami production in an independent Miami station) and game show "Numeros Rojos" a format imported from Spain became part of the new strategy. In 2001, Telemundo was purchased by NBC and is now a part of NBC Universal. Jim MacNamara helmed the network during and after the sale. Their main competitor, Univision, continues to have an upper hand in the ratings wars. However, Telemundo has more original produced programming than Univision and does not rely strictly on Mexican shows. In contrast, Univision's schedule is heavy on Mexican showes since it is part-owned by Mexican media giant Televisa. After 3 great years, NBC officials asked MacNamara to resign, and now the network is once again with a new president heading the operations: Don Browne who used to helm local NBC affiliate WTVJ in Miami. On February 27th, 2006, it was announced to NBC hired Nely Galan yet again to helm a division for the network based on the success of Hispanic soaps for NBC. Only time will tell if Galan will succeed or if she will again, fail. In 2004, Telemundo began subtitling their telenovelas into English in the hopes of getting Hispanic Americans that did not speak Spanish to tune in. Subtitles are broadcast by using closed captioning. All of Telemundo's telenovelas are also closed captioned in Spanish. However, in order to activate the captions in English, viewers have to tune the caption to CC3, a closed-caption channel widely available on most newer-model televisions less than five years old, though typically not available on older-model televisions.