RCN Televisión (Radio Cadena Nacional) is a Colombian private television network. It started as a production company programadora in 1967. Since 1998 it became a network by acquiring one of the two licenses granted by the Colombian government (the other Colombian private TV network is Caracol TV).
RCN Television was created as a part of RCN Radio. In 1967 RCN Radio took part in the bidding for spaces in the official television network, getting one hour a day which was distributed into two series: one made in Colombia named El Hogar (The Home) and the American television series Bewitched. In 1973 RCN Radio and its subsidiary RCN Television were purchased by Carlos Ardila Lülle, who three years later relaunched RCN as a television production company (or programadora) with several spaces into the official channels schedule. RCN was the first company that broadcast a television program both live and in color, the 1980 Miss Colombia beauty contest; since that year RCN has held the rights to broadcast this event.
RCN produced television series with high remembrance among viewers like Cusumbo and El Taita in 1984, which was the first Colombian telenovela filmed in exterior locations. In August 1988, RCN became part of OTI Colombia, gaining the rights to broadcast the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup. Other members included Caracol, RTI, Producciones PUNCH, Producciones JES and Datos y Mensajes.
Along with Caracol TV and R.T.I. RCN became one of the major television production companies in Colombia, producing not only telenovelas, game shows, but also sports events and news. Nevertheless, the telenovelas gave to RCN an outstanding recognition, first in Latin America and in places as distant as Vietnam and Hungary. Among this productions were La Potra Zaina, Las Juanas and the international hit Café, con aroma de mujer, which not only have been broadcast in several countries across the globe but have been remade several times, with Destilando Amor being the newest version. Within the telenovelas they produced in the 1990s, there were productions like La Otra Raya del Tigre, La Vorágine, La Casa de las dos Palmas, Azucar, Momposina and Hombres, all of them raising parts of the Colombian culture and showing it to the world.
In 1995 the Colombian government opened up a bidding for two private television networks, each one operating with one channel. RCN took part of this bidding, getting one of the two licenses, the other went to Caracol TV. In 1997 RCN started construction on the infrastructure to launch the television channel. On 10 July 1998, RCN aired for the first time as a private channel. In this first stage, RCN launched two telenovelas -La Madre and Carolina Barrantes- and improved the news bulletins, nevertheless, in the first year, RCN -and Caracol- only had a fraction of the Colombian television audience, because the broadcasting infrastructure was not complete and the production companies which remained in the official channels launched a solid strategy to keep the viewers.
In only the second semester of 1999 and the first one of 2000, RCN and Caracol got to beat the public channels, taking more of the 90 percent of the viewers. RCN's first hits were Francisco El Matemático ("Francisco, the Math Teacher"), a teen-oriented series, which aired on Saturday nights, but thanks to its success was moved to prime time Mondays to Fridays, and El Fiscal (The Prosecutor), an action oriented series.
Since the successes of Francisco El Matemático and El Fiscal, RCN launched successful telenovelas which let it take the first place in the Colombian most watched networks: Me Llaman Lolita ("My Name is Lolita"), and Yo soy Betty, la Fea, that became the most successful telenovela ever in Colombia, topping Café con aroma de mujer. Betty la fea has since had its format and storyline licensed by RCN to multiple broadcasters worldwide in several languages.
Following the international trend, RCN launched in 2003 its first reality show: Protagonistas de Novela, which became the most watched show that year in Colombia, its second season, despite not getting as high ratings as the first season got, kept it in first place in the most watched shows in Colombia. Following Protagonistas de Novelas, RCN launched La Isla de los Famosos (a Colombian version of Survivor), which became the most watched show in RCN in 2004, and the second season named Una Aventura Pirata (A Pirate Adventure) got again the place of most watched show in Colombia. The RCN's telenovelas those years were perceived to be of only middling quality, not until with the launching of Los Reyes (a Colombian version of Argentinian series Los Roldán) and Fernando Gaitan's Hasta que la plata nos separe (Until the Money Divides Us) that a telenovela from RCN got high ratings to become the most watched show in Colombia. But despite those years the telenovelas did not put the network in the first place, the Colombian version of The X Factor did, becoming the number one show in Colombia in 2006, with two seasons, and a third and a fourth named Factor XS, where the competitors are kids instead of adults. RCN gained some criticism against the fact that the network was getting ratings from the use of kids in a reality show, but the parents of the kids dismissed this affirmation.
In July 2008, RCN became the first TV network in Colombia to offer online domestic English-language news updates under the brand, "RCN News" and RCN News in English. The full news updates would air on RCN's international network, "TV Colombia" in the mornings. Near the end of 2010, "RCN News in English" was phased out and began to offer only English-language international news updates for RCN's sister network, "Nuestra Tele Noticias 24" under the brand "news.NTN24.com". Plans for the format change began to surface in July 2010 after the main producer Brian Andrews involuntarily left the country in May after doing a report in El Cerrito, Valle del Cauca. National press coverage followed the incident. By this time he had become nationally well-known not only for producing national English-language news updates but for having done voice-overs for on-air advertisements for RCN's coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa as a lemur known as "Monocuco". He was known for saying "Monocuco, su avena y su pitillo, compadre" in broken Spanish.
Teasers for the latest news update air during the midday "Noticias RCN" newscast during segment transitions. The teaser introduction is always in Spanish, while the teaser itself is in English. Even with the brand name and format changes, teasers continue to air during the "Noticias RCN" midday newscasts in an attempt to continue to compete in the Colombian TV market. Teasers however included "Noticias RCN" graphics but used a "news.NTN24.com" end card. Although "Nuestra Tele Noticias 24" is an international news channel, "news.NTN24.com" focuses more on headlines from the "Americas" with the motto of "Latin America’s News In English" Morning, afternoon and evening news updates were posted daily. News updates were recorded in Bogotá and Miami with occasional updates from Berlin and New York City. Along with posting news updates on their website, "news.NTN24.com" relies heavily on their Facebook and Twitter pages to notify viewers on new updates. In February 2011, the brand name changed to "NTN24News.com" and the website layout changed to accommodate a larger video display showcasing the latest news update. As of late 2012, NTN24 News provides mostly news produced from wire services like Reuters and very little original reporting.
RCN presently operates on a 22-hour regular network programming per day, and its signal is the same all over the country, with no changes in the schedule, which starts in the early morning (4:00 am) with reruns of previously aired telenovelas, the morning is covered with breakfast television (Muy Buenos Días), with a break for news, and then religious programming (Cura Para el Alma), the news returns at 12:30 pm and the rest of the afternoon is taken by national and foreign telenovelas until 7:00 pm with the news bulletin, and at 8:00 pm the prime time starts with national telenovelas until 10:30 pm, the night is taken by news and editorial TV shows (i.e. La Noche).