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New York Daily News
Sex Appeal Translates To More Viewers
BY ROBERT DOMINGUEZ
January 15, 2004
On a recent segment of Spanish-language television's most popular nightly newsmagazine, the images from around the world are both disturbing and unforgettable.
Street riots in Mexico and Peru, civil unrest and spectacular car crashes are among the top stories on this evening's edition of "Primer Impacto."
But the one image that resonates with many viewers comes directly from the Miami studio where the Univision program is broadcast live seven days a week:
The sight of voluptuous anchorwoman Carmen Dominicci in a tight turtleneck sweater.
The not-so-subtle sex appeal of "Primer Impacto" weekday anchors Barbara Bermudo and Myrka Dellanos, and Dominicci, who co-hosts the show on weekends with Fernando del Rincon, has helped Ch. 41 to the largest audience among viewers 18-34 in New York between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.
That's ahead of local newscasts on Ch. 2, 4, 5 and 7.
And its loyal audience sticks around for Ch. 41's local 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. news shows, which are now also No. 1 in the 18-34 demographic.
The shows even frequently have larger total audiences than any English-language news show on the air at that time.
What makes them so popular? Sex doesn't hurt.
Sitting behind a see-through glass desk, and often sporting outfits that show off a lot more than their journalistic assets, the women blend Peter Jennings' gravitas with Jenna Jameson's allure.
"There's no question there are good-looking people on [the show], and I don't think it happens by accident," says Doug Alligood, head of special markets for ad buyer BBDO.
While the ratings for "Primer Impacto" are a testament to the city's burgeoning Latino population, Dominicci says she notices her show is gaining popularity with
English-speaking viewers as well.
"A lot of Americans have come up to me and said, 'I know you from the news - I don't speak Spanish, but I do watch you,' " says Dominicci.
That explains viewers like Queens postal worker Scott Vogel, 45, who doesn't speak a word of Spanish but tunes into "Primer Impacto" anyway.
"I don't know what they're saying," says Vogel. "But I know I like to watch them saying it."
"It certainly doesn't hurt [ratings] if you're articulate and good-looking," Alligood says. "The major [Anglo] networks do the same thing, but it's perhaps not as blatant."
Certainly, ABC doesn't have a pinup-photo gallery of Diane Sawyer on its Web site, as Univision displays its anchors.
Dominicci, a raven-haired, blue-eyed beauty from Puerto Rico, is featured in a photo gallery of glam shots reminiscent of a fashion magazine layout.
"If we were ugly, would you watch the show?" asks Dominicci.
In another series of photos, Bermudo and Dellanos pose in body- hugging outfits.
But Dominicci says the female anchors are more than just eye candy.
She may be a former model, but Dominicci also has extensive experience in broadcast news. Before joining Univision, she was the news co-anchor for rival network Telemundo's New York station, WNJU, where she won two regional Emmys.
Bermudo worked as an on-air reporter for Univision's Miami station, and Dellanos has experience as a radio reporter in Miami.
"Nobody [at the network] tells us how we have to look," says Dominicci. "But we don't work for radio or magazines or newspapers. We are in a visual medium.
"If people want to see us - and not hear us or read us - then we should present ourselves in the most attractive way that we can.
"The most important thing is that [the show] gives viewers a nice combination of great images and balanced news stories," she adds.
Despite presenting serious international coverage, sensational human interest stories and "Entertainment Tonight"-style pieces, the emphasis on the physical attributes of on-air personalities "is usually the case in the Spanish-language market," says George Dessart, co-author of "Down the Tube: An Inside Account of the Failure of American Television."
Whatever the formula, it's working.
Viewership is up more than 41% from the previous year, according to recent Nielsen ratings.
"Primer Impacto" is the No. 1 news show in New York at 5 p.m. among viewers 18-34 and not far behind WABC/Ch. 7's "Eyewitness News" among other audience segments.
Its Spanish competition takes a different tack.
Maria Celeste Arraras, the host of rival newsmagazine "Al Rojo Vivo con Maria Celeste" on Telemundo - and a former co-anchor of "Primer Impacto" - says her show purposely plays down any overt sexuality.
"Viewers get tired of sexy looks and blatant miniskirts," says Arraras. "I don't use that as a weapon to play to the audience.
"It gets old. Brains and personality stay with you longer."