Multiethnic television has come a long way since the early 1990s, when Nielsen began measuring African-American and Hispanic-American audiences.
Today, the video content offerings available to appeal to a particular ethnic audience, cultural group or nationality continue to grow-in number and sophistication-thanks to a group of individuals that make this diversity happen.
The business of multiethnic television is getting its due recognition this Wednesday (April 17) at the Hilton New York, when Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News will present the first-ever Multiethnic TV Leadership Awards, honoring the very best in their disciplines. The awards will be presented during a luncheon ceremony.
Eleven executives representing Condista, Comcast, Dish Network, Fox Broadcasting, Fox Hispanic Media, Sesame Workshop, SMG/Tapestry, Telemundo, TV One, Univision and Verizon Communications will be recognized.
These executives work across disciplines in the fields of advertising, programming, marketing, digital and pay television and have been named as the members of the first-ever class of winners of the Multiethnic TV Leadership Awards.
Judging was based on an independent scoring process by an esteemed group of judges including Ruma Bose, an entrepreneur and author of the best-selling book Mother Teresa: CEO; Eduardo Caballero, founder and chairman of Caballero Spanish Media; Carmen DiRienzo, who served as the founding president and CEO of Vme; and Ola Mobolade, author of the book Marketing to the New Majority; as well as a selection of editors from the presenting publications.
Each judge received every qualified entry. Candidates were nominated by their business associates and were submitted for specific categories. Nearly 100 qualified entries were received. Four categories had the greatest number of submissions. Judges scored a candidate based on a scale of one to five. Those with the highest score per category were declared the winners.
Erica Branch-Ridley—Digital Media Provider Executive
VP, executive in charge of production for Sesame Learning, Sesame Workshop
Why She's Hot: Erica Branch-Ridley constantly strives to find new ways to use the burgeoning technology landscape to educate children.
Branch-Ridley joined Sesame Workshop in 2008 as the broadband supervising producer for The Electric Company, and also more recently served as assistant vice president and supervising producer of The Electric Company Digital.
Branch-Ridley boasts both a Daytime and Primetime Emmy Award. She won a daytime award for The Electric Company's website in the "New Approaches - Children's Entertainment" category. Her primetime win came in 2005, while she was at TV Land, for "Outstanding Achievement in Interactive Television" as executive producer for the 2005 TV Land Awards online application.
Before shifting to digital, Erica spent almost 10 years in a range of roles in the television industry, working for such companies as BET, CBS News and WNBC in New York. One of her greatest accomplishments came at BET, where he created and produced STORYPORCH, a children's TV show based on the concept of multicultural children's books and the African tradition of storytelling.
"It's important that we reflect the children who are watching," Branch-Ridley said. "Making sure kids can see themselves on television is the most important thing."
Solely focused on the digital side now, Branch-Ridley said she can't help but be excited for what lies ahead. "There are just so many more opportunities for content and so many more outlets," she said. "I just feel like advertisers are putting more money into [more diverse programming] now."
Career Highlights: Broadband supervising producer for The Electric Company; assistant VP and supervising producer of The Electric Company Digital; executive producer and senior director of TV Land Digital; senior producer for Nickelodeon Online; and education content producer for The AT&T Learning Network.
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Chiqui Cartagena—Network Marketing Executive
VP, corporate marketing, Univision Communications
Why She's Hot: Chiqui Cartagena started her career in 1985 as a young producer for Spanish International Network (SIN), the television network that later became Univision. At the time, she and her colleagues used to get a kick out of their employer's name, going around telling people: "I work for SIN."
Twenty-eight years--and several companies and career-shaping jobs--later, Cartagena is back at Univision, this time as vice president for corporate marketing, leading a team responsible for developing and implementing corporate marketing strategies and creating proprietary research.
Since her hiring in April 2011, she has helped boost Univision's research to better understand and serve U.S. Hispanics, including the all-too important and often misunderstood group known as Hispanic millennials. Throughout her career, Cartagena has led some of the most-successful launches in U.S. Hispanic marketing. She was behind the conception, launch and development of TV Guide en Español and People en Español, still the most successful Spanish-language magazine and one that continues to dominate the Hispanic print market today.
Friends, colleagues and pretty much everyone in the Hispanic media world wastes no time in bringing up Cartagena's expertise when questions arise about understanding the market.
Ruth Gaviria, Univision's senior vice president of corporate marketing and a longtime colleague and friend of Cartagena, has described her as, "Your first stop to understanding Latino culture....[Cartagena] has taken it as her personal mission to teach all of us what the potential of the Hispanic community is."
In 2012, Cartagena won the ADCOLOR Award for her achievements in helping marketers and brands use innovative thinking, strategic partnerships and content to expand into the Hispanic market.
Career Highlights: As a TV producer, she coordinated crews covering Pope John Paul II's 1987 visit to Miami. She led the creation and development of People en Español. In March, released her second book: Latino Boom II: Catching the Biggest Demographic Wave Since the Baby Boom, taking readers beyond the census numbers. Random House published her first book in 2005.
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Jorge Fiterre—Group Distribution Executive
Why He's Hot: At 10 years old, Fiterre was one of many young Cubans forced to leave his home behind and begin anew in the U.S. Since then, Fiterre said, reconnecting to his culture has "defined my whole life."
He started out working in the mailroom of a Miami TV station before Hispanic content was largely available to U.S. consumers. As more operators rolled out Spanish-language packages, Fiterre found room for growth in that market. In 1999, he founded Condista, a Spanish-language programming aggregator representing 18 Spanish-language networks, including Canal Sur, Telefe and TeleFormula.
"It was going to be the distribution [company] of the Hispanic world," Fiterre said. "In other words, the Hispanic networks were finally going to get a chance in the cable world."
Fiterre wants to give the Hispanic consumer a chance to see relevant, culturally-inspired content. And as the business evolves into a TV Everywhere model, Fiterre said Condista is also moving into that space, with plans to expand video-on-demand in Latin America.
"We're looking at how our industry is changing," Fiterre said. "It's a little bit scary, but at the same time, it's exciting."
His commitment to the Hispanic community extends far beyond providing it with quality content. Fiterre has, for many years, been involved with the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana, organizing Carnival Miami and street festival Calle Ocho.
"Being a Cuban-American and being forced out of your country at a very young age makes you want to keep those roots alive. And that's why I like doing what I do every day," Fiterre said.
Career Highlights: Director, business development, FPL Group (1986); manager, advertising, Adelphia Communications (1990); founder/partner, Condista (1999).
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Tom Maney—Advertising Sales Executive
Executive VP, advertising sales, Fox Hispanic Media
Why He's Hot: Tom Maney might not be fluent in Spanish, but he is a television executive who fluently speaks the language of Hispanic cable.
A 14-year Fox veteran, Maney joined the company when Hispanic cable wasn't even measured by Nielsen, but fell into the category of "other."
"I realized I had to be first an ambassador for media; preaching the value of cable first and of Fox Deportes later," Maney said of his first days with the division then known as Fox Sports Americas. Back then, he recalled, the Hispanic sports channel had barely eight advertisers and reached fewer than 1 million Hispanic households. Under Maney's leadership, the network has grown 35-fold and now boasts 125 advertisers and more than 7 million Hispanic households.
A confident, passionate salesman, Maney was promoted to senior vice president of sales in 2007. In 2009, he was tapped to head Fox Hispanic Media, leading an advertising-sales team of more than 50 across Fox's four Hispanic networks: The 17-year-old Fox Deportes (previously known as Fox Sports en Español), Utilísima, Nat Geo Mundo and the recently launched MundoFox, a joint venture between Fox International Channels and Colombia's RCN Television Group.
Being non-Hispanic has never had a negative effect on his job, he said. In fact, one of the best pieces of advice he ever received was from writer and Hispanic marketing expert Isabel Valdez: "I wanted to learn Spanish, but she told me, instead, to learn the 'culture' of Hispanics. 'We speak English, you know?'"
Using that knowledge -- and a heavy dose of charisma -- Maney quickly helped secure some blue-chip advertisers for the recently launched MundoFox, which is not even one year old and is still working on expanding coverage nationwide.
Career Highlights: From his start in independent TV in the 1980s to cable in the '90s, Maney has helped take Fox Deportes to the top of its league. Took a network with eight advertisers and 1 million households to one with 125 advertisers and 7 million households. As head of Fox Hispanic Media, signed up Toyota, T-Mobile and L'Oreal to advertise on MundoFox months before its August 2012 launch.
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Ruben Mendiola—Pay TV Provider Executive
VP and GM, multicultural video services, Comcast Cable
Why He's Hot: As Comcast's "Multicultural Maven," Ruben Mendiola knows the importance of serving this fast-growing customer base. "It's important to have programming where people can see themselves," he said.
Last January, Mendiola was hired by Comcast to create a new division to serve the multicultural audience, and so far, so good. "I believe that the public has been very, very receptive of what we have been doing."
One of the unit's tasks was to create the first-ever Hispanic triple-play package. In December, Comcast launched Xfinity Latino, which includes an updated suite of video products and services developed exclusively to serve Hispanic customers. Xfinity Latino added 10 new Hispanic channels and doubled Comcast's amount of Hispanic on-demand content on TV and online.
Prior to joining Comcast, Mendiola was general manager of Latino programming and Spanish business development for Dish Network. During his nine years there, he is credited with spearheading the company's Spanish video content initiatives. Perhaps his biggest achievement there was creating the Dish Latino division.
Going forward, Mendiola sees more of the same for Comcast. He says their main focus will be to improve "all aspects of multiethnic offerings" which will include the relaunch of several ethnically-targeted minisites.
"You're going to see us taking a more proactive and innovative way of serving multicultural audiences," said Mendiola, who thinks of the new innovations as the "2.0" of what Comcast already has. "I think multiethnic TV is coming of age."
Career Highlights: General manager of Latino programming and Spanish business development for Dish Network; VP of programming and operations at Fox Sports Latin America; programming director for pay TV at Grupo Televisa.
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Michelle Rice—Cable Network Distribution Executive
Executive VP, affiliate sales and marketing, TV One
Why She's Hot: As part of an independent network, Rice has a tough battle to gain widespread carriage for TV One - but she's willing to convince distributors "just how important it is to provide diverse programming," especially for the underserved African-American audience.
Rice's tenacity with distributors led to a deal in August 2011 with Cablevision Systems, which brought the network to the homes of its targeted audience in Brooklyn, N.Y., and surrounding areas; as of August 2012, TV One is available in 57 million homes.
Rice, who has been with TV One since its launch in January 2004, likens TV One to the Geraldine Laybourne era of Nickelodeon, which set in motion social change through television.
"[Working] with targeted networks, you have that opportunity," Rice said. "With TV One, we're creating television that we hope will change some of the negative perceptions and have social impact."
TV One is deeply involved in initiatives to connect with communities through advocacy and education, something deeply ingrained in Rice.
Hailing from rural Mississippi, Rice's parents were active in the civil-rights movement, and Rice's mother was a teacher. "Education ... is something that I feel passionate about, and to be able to have that same relationship at work is definitely rewarding," Rice said.
To ensure TV One's message is widespread, Rice is currently working on the network's TV Everywhere model.
"We want to work with our distributions to meet both our audience and their customers where they are," Rice said, "which is everywhere."
Career Highlights: Manager, special markets, BET (1992-94); director, affiliate sales/special markets, NBC Cable Networks (1994-2000); regional VP, Northeast, affiliate relations and national accounts, In Demand (2001-03).
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Alfredo Rodriguez—Pay TV Provider Marketing Executive
VP, marketing, Dish Network
Why He's Hot: Alfredo Rodriguez might be relatively new to pay TV, but he is adept at applying a traditional marketing background to the entertainment, media and technology industries.
A native of New York, and a child of a Cuban father and a Mexican mother, Rodriguez spent a great part of his career climbing the executive ladder at multinational Philip Morris International, working in Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico and Puerto Rico. He then moved to Molson Coors Brewing, where he led the development and launch of the Coors Light "Cold-Activated" bottle in Puerto Rico. The innovation was later adopted by the brewer's U.S. team and became a cornerstone of the brand's successful repositioning.
Since joining Dish Network in 2010, RodrÃguez and his team have developed a clearer understanding of the company's target consumer and his/her needs, ultimately helping reposition the Dish Latino brand and developing a retention strategy. Though the company declines to disclose specifics, Dish represents one of the largest Hispanic advertising budgets in the country, according to Advertising Age's Hispanic Fact Pack.
Rodriguez said the company sees the value of its relatively large marketing expenditures in a very measurable way: Net subscriber growth.
For example, the mix of Spanish- and English-language channels known as Dish Latino is tops in the satellite-TV segment, though Rodriguez declined to disclose specifics. "It has grown substantially, in the double digits, both in sales and budgets," he said.
Under Rodriguez's leadership and in order to keep subscribers from defecting after introductory offers expire, Dish Latino in 2011 added a retention campaign to its acquisition messages. The pitch uses the tagline "me conviene," which Rodriguez said roughly translates to "it's in my best interest."
As a result, he said, subscriber defections, or churn, have been reduced to levels not seen since 2007.
Career highlights: Developed industry-first initiatives like FlexTV by DishLatino, the first brand extension in the pay TV industry to focus primarily on a no commitment, no contract, no credit-check service.
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Emilio Romano—Network Executive
President, Telemundo Media
Why He's Hot: It's tough replacing an industry legend, but that's just what Emilio Romano had to do in 2011 when he took over for Telemundo's longtime leader, Don Browne. Even so, it's safe to say that NBCUniversal-owned Telemundo has been pleased with the first 18 months with Romano at the controls.
His career spans the media, aviation and Internet industries, where he has held multiple senior leadership positions over the past two decades; few in the industry have cultivated the power of the multiethnic audience from as many angles.
"I believe that more agencies and clients are realizing more and more that the figures in the last Census are not just numbers," Romano said. "They are the new reality in which we all live in America."
Romano touted the spending power of Hispanics, stating that it "tops the charts at $1 trillion" and that he expects 50% growth over the next few years. "These trends are not going to slow down and, as long as they continue, multiethnic media will continue to thrive."
He guides Telemundo as it's the top producer of Spanish-language primetime content in the U.S. Its original productions are distributed in more than 100 countries and dubbed into 35 languages.
On the heels of the company's best-ever quarter, Romano just wants to keep the momentum going. "We plan to continue doing what we do best - invest in producing high-quality original content and hiring the best on and off-air talent available in the market," he said.
Career Highlights: President of Telemundo Media; CEO of Grupo Mexicana de AviaciÃ³n; co-founded Border Group, LLC; member, board of directors, Univision Communications; VP, international operations, Grupo Televisa; director, mergers and acquisitions, Grupo Televisa.
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Lia Silkworth—Media Executive
Executive VP, managing director, Tapestry, Starcom MediaVest Group
Why She's Hot: In early 2011, General Motors was looking for creative ways to position its Buick brand among U.S. Hispanics, something it had never done before. But executives at the automaker didn't know quite well how to go about it. Enter Lia Silkworth and her team at Tapestry, the nation's largest multicultural media agency. Silkworth and her team proposed taking Buick through exciting - though uncharted -- territory: Through a nontraditional media buy, the brand became a centerpiece of Univision's successful telenovela Eva Luna, which not only put Buick front and center, but weaved it in a way that became a crucial part of the story.
The Buick-Eva Luna partnership is not only one of the most sophisticated examples of brand integration at SMG, but also one illustrative of the dramatic changes the media industry is undergoing thanks to executives like Silkworth, who has been with Starcom MediaVest Group for more than 15 years, holding positions in the U.S. and abroad.
A daughter of Cuban immigrants, Silkworth is fluent in English and Spanish, something that has helped her understand the increasingly complex market she serves.
While working on the General Motors account, she has helped transform the automaker's approach to multicultural markets across its eight vehicle divisions and more than 20 active brands. And while television has been her main focus, she sees tremendous growth coming from the online world. "Research shows that Spanish-language consumers are heavy adopters of new technology," Silkworth said. "As online content grows, we'll continue to see significant advertising growth in this area."
Career Highlights: Created an ahead-of-its-time online plan for the Oldsmobile Alero, circa 1998. Led team that in May of 2012 empowered Univision to broker the first deal of all networks during the 2011/2012 upfront season. The deal, whose terms were not disclosed, was the largest single-agency upfront deal ever conducted by Univision, and the first one to utilize a video neutral approach.
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Michelle Webb—Pay TV Programming Executive
Executive director, content strategy and acquisition, Verizon FiOS
Why She's Hot: Michelle Webb's path in the media world was not a straight line. She studied anthropology at Harvard University's Radcliffe College; won a Michael C. Rockefeller grant and planned to travel the world studying and writing about diverse cultures. Instead, after living in West Africa for a few years, she ultimately became a journalist and went on to become an Emmy Award-winning producer for CBS's 60 Minutes and f0r ABC News.
She was recruited in 2006 by Terry Denson, Verizon Communications' vice president of content acquisition, to lead the creation and launch of the telco's first local news channels and to head the company's overall multicultural content strategy.
Under her leadership, Verizon has propelled multicultural programming to the forefront of its content strategy, impacting the paradigm internally so that "multicultural" is no longer thought of as niche programming but as a relevant and important too to maintaining and growing its subscriber base.
In the summer of 2012, Webb led the way in the acquisition of more than 10 Spanish-language new high-definition channels for FiOS TV, which established it as the provider with the most Spanish-language channels. Today, FiOS TV offers two Spanish-language packages: La ConexiÃ³n, which offers more than 70 Spanish-language channels in addition to English channels, and the Spanish Language Package, which offers nearly the same number of Spanish-language channels.
As she continues to make multicultural programming a key initiative for FiOS TV, new channel launches planned in the coming months.
Career Highlights: Emmy Award-winning producer; worked as a producer for ABC News and CBS News' 60 Minutes; led Verizon in creating the first owned-and-operated local-channel network, FiOS1. Will earn her executive MBA from Columbia University in May.
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Inae Wilson—Broadcast Network Distribution Executive
Senior VP, broadcasting distribution, Fox Broadcasting
Why She's Hot: Wilson is hoping to have the same knack for nurturing News Corp.'s recently launched MundoFox as she did with her own career, rising in 15 years from coordinator to head of all distribution for Fox.
The network now has 55 stations signed up, Wilson said, with companies such as Belo, Fisher Communications and LIN Media on board.
"There are obviously some carriage deals that we're working through right now, but that we were able to sign up that many that quick is a huge success," Wilson said.
MundoFox's success in securing distribution points to Wilson's determination and adaptability. Though she has spent her career learning the ins and outs of distribution, Wilson had to start from square one when it came to MundoFox.
"I obviously didn't have any experience in Spanish-language," Wilson, a Korean-American, said. "[I was excited] for the opportunity to learn the Spanish-language business, which is so different from the general market."
Wilson contends she is always learning, with a job that "changes almost daily." Her purview includes day-to-day operations, negotiating distribution agreements, enforcing contractual commitments, program clearances, preemptions, on-air/co-op promotion and managing all relations between FBC and domestic broadcast television affiliates.
"Every day I deal with different executives, different divisions and different stations across the country," Wilson said. "Our business has changed so much ... It's never the same business year to year, much less day to day."
Career Highlights: Manager, affiliate relations, Fox Sports (2001); director, network distribution, Fox Broadcasting (2003); VP, network distribution, Fox Broadcasting (2005); senior VP, broadcast distribution, Fox Broadcasting (2011).
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