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Telemundo Poaches Univision's Quezada

May 06, 2003|Meg James | Times Staff Writer

News anchor Eduardo Quezada is leaving his home of 27 years -- Univision's dominant KMEX-TV Channel 34 -- to work for crosstown rival Telemundo.

The poaching of Quezada, one of the most respected figures in Spanish-language television in Los Angeles, ratchets up a bitter corporate battle for viewers in the nation's largest and most competitive market.

The 58-year-old newsman last anchored KMEX's 6 p.m. news Friday. He resigned late Monday. Beginning Wednesday, Quezada will co-anchor the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. news for Telemundo's KVEA-TV Channel 52.

"Eduardo is the most recognizable face in this market," said Manuel Abud, general manager of Telemundo's two stations in L.A., KVEA and KWHY-TV Channel 22. "This is something that I've always wanted to do -- bring Eduardo to our station -- and now the timing was right."

Univision executives declined to comment late Monday.

The stakes in this battle are particularly high: The Los Angeles market, home to a fifth of the nation's Spanish-language TV viewers, brings in nearly a quarter of all the local advertising dollars spent on Spanish-language television nationwide.

Although Univision and KMEX have long been dominant in Spanish-language broadcasting, Telemundo has been more aggressive since General Electric Co.'s NBC network bought it for $2 billion last year.

With the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the smaller Telemundo network rolled out in-depth news coverage of the war and its effect on Latinos back home and watched as its ratings jumped -- and Univision's fell.

Telemundo has also experimented with telenovelas, reality shows and miniseries, including a Spanish-language version of the NBC series "Kingpin."

"And now, they are stealing some amazing talent from Univision," said Roberto Orci of M3 Alliance Consulting, which specializes in Spanish-language media. "If you add it up, KVEA and Telemundo are in a much stronger competitive position than ever before."

Quezada "has tremendous credibility.... This is somebody who has developed and demonstrated a strong commitment to the community."

During the last year, NBC has spent more than $270 million to buy new Telemundo stations and improve everything from news coverage to equipment.

Details were not disclosed, but executives said the contract would be long-term.

"Eduardo will continue to be the face of Spanish-language TV in the Los Angeles market -- otherwise we wouldn't be doing this," said Ramon Escobar, senior vice president for news for Telemundo's stations.

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