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America TeVé: A Distinct Draw Along the East Coast

In just a matter of weeks, Miami-based América TeVé will celebrate 20 years on the air in South Florida. Airing on Miami TV station WJAN-CD, América TeVé is a trailblazer, becoming the first Spanish-language television operation to challenge the networks thanks to a diverse assortment of originally produced television shows appealing primarily to viewers of Caribbean heritage. This strategy initially brought first- and second-generation Cubans to América TeVé. Today, América TeVé also attracts Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Colombians and Hispanics from across Latin America who can find América TeVé not only in South Florida but also in Tampa-St. Petersburg, across Puerto Rico and in New York. In an email exchange, América TeVé senior vice president of sales Herb Espino spoke with Hispanic Television Update contributor Adam Jacobson about the growth of the network and its recently launched news-and-information-focused sibling, Teveo.

MCN:  América TeVé will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2014. This is quite a remarkable achievement, as it makes the channel perhaps the nation's most successful unaffiliated broadcast television offering to Hispanic viewers. What is the one thing that has made América TeVé a success in Miami?
Herb Espino: 
América Tevé has grown organically over the last 14 years, thanks to the relevancy of the content it offers its Hispanic viewers. The majority of these viewers come from the Caribbean.

MCN: Original programming is a hallmark of América Tevé. How did the network conceive its current programming slate? Can you please offer a brief review of the key TV shows that define América Tevé in 2013-14?
First and foremost, our large news department — focused on local news — really defines what we do.  Then there are our daily entertainment shows. We air a talk forum, Arrebatados [Out of Control]; talent competition show Minuto de Fama [Minute of Fame]; the comedy variety offerings El Happy Hour and TN3; and our brand-new show Agárrese Quien Pueda [Hold on If You Can]. We also have very successful debate and opinion shows, including Sevcec a Fondo featuring Pedro Sevcec and El Espejo [The Mirror], hosted by Juan Manuel Cao.
Agárrese Quien Pueda premiered Dec. 9 and takes the 3 p.m. weekdays slot. The show features celebrity gossip and is hosted by veteran Miami-based personalities Javier Ceriani, Frank Cairo, Kary Bernal and Carolina Laursen.

MCN: How has América TeVé evolved during the last 20 years? Is it a "Cuban" channel focused on first- and second-generation immigrants from Cuba, or is that no longer the case?
HE: Cubans continue to be very relevant in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market as they continue to arrive at our shores to the tune of 40,000 to 43,000 per year. An article in the Dec. 8 edition of the Miami Herald notes that “at least 44,000 arrived in the U.S. in the fiscal year that ended September 30.” That’s the highest total since 1994 and 10% higher than the estimated 40,000 arrivals in FY2012. However,  we are also producing programs for our Puerto Rico operation, and these shows are targeted to the local viewing audience.

MCN: América TeVé's brand strength certainly speaks to its appeal among a large segment of Hispanic television viewers in Miami. Even during its brief affiliation with MundoFox, the América TeVé brand defines the station. What's the case with advertisers on both a national and local level?
The majority of local and national advertisers make their buying decisions based on numbers. However, local merchants go beyond the numbers. They are looking for stations they know their customers have affinity with. That is where the América Tevé brand has a nice edge.

MCN: Shifting back to programming, the former CaribeVision last January became "Teveo" — a  sister offering to América TeVé that focuses on news and information, in particular talk programming that in a market like Miami has always performed well in the ratings. What can you say about Teveo's programming and how it meshes with América TeVé?
Teveo delivers 15 hours of local news-oriented programs daily. Programs are produced by the team behind América Tevé's very successful news brand, América Noticias. In fact, América Noticias just won 22 Emmy Awards in the 37th edition of the Suncoast Chapter, surpassing all stations in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Puerto Rico and Florida.

MCN: The Hispanic market continues to evolve at a furious pace, leading to discussions about how Hispanics are shifting more and more toward English-language media. Yet Miami is very different than any other U.S. market, and the DMA is comprised of more Spanish-dominant Hispanics than those who identify themselves as bilingual or English-dominant. Explain how this has helped América TeVé and why the channel likely has a long life span ahead with its current broadcast model.
Cubans like to keep their roots alive, and we were the first station to address their programming needs. Cubans are the only Hispanic group immigrating to South Florida in large numbers. As long as we continue to deliver the relevant content they like, our stations will continue growing. And, as América Tevé is available in New York, Tampa and Puerto Rico, we feel that our content is relevant to all Hispanics of Caribbean origin, as we have so many things in common.