Hispanic-American TV booms

It took a year for the 2000 census results to really sink in. News that the fast-growing Hispanic community comprises nearly 13% of the U.S. population hit just before last year's upfront market. It was too soon for the advertising community to absorb the stats, and too early for Spanish-language networks Univision and Telemundo to cash in.

But what a difference a year makes. Media buyers and advertisers now seem ready to direct more ad dollars to Hispanic networks. They are eyeing an untapped, growing audience. The U.S. Hispanic population grew 58% from 1990 to 2001, according to census figures. One in every six people under 18 is Hispanic.

"Our market is growing, and the English market is shrinking. Our population is growing, and the English population is shrinking," said Univision President and COO Ray Rodriguez.

However, where English-language broadcast nets may draw 300 or more advertisers, the Spanish alternatives attract closer to 100. Hispanic household incomes, too, are lower than other groups': In 2000, the median household income was $33,447, compared with $44,226 for white households and $30,439 for black households, according to the census.

Univision and Telemundo touted their growing audiences and new programming slates at upfront presentations last week in New York. Univision is the sector's undisputed powerhouse, commanding about 70% of the Hispanic audience (although estimates vary slightly). Its new spin-off network, Telefutura, which launched in January, grabs about 6%. That leaves Telemundo with about 20% audience share.

Telemundo wields a new weapon: its freshly minted alliance with NBC. "It's a little unsettling when you've spent close to $3 billion and people come up to you and say, 'So, you're serious about this Spanish thing?'" quipped NBC President and COO Andrew Lack. He and NBC Chairman Bob Wright were on hand for Telemundo's presentation at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan.

Already, NBC is willing to share some of its properties with Telemundo. The next three Olympic Games, beginning with the 2004 Athens Games, will air in Spanish on Telemundo. Perhaps the biggest benefit, though, will be Telemundo spots and promotions running on NBC. "We'll help Hispanic marketers reach the general market and enable traditionally mainstream advertisers to reach Hispanic consumers," said Lack. A portion of Telemundo ad buys may be sold in conjunction with NBC.

Telemundo's biggest programming draw, the novella, dominated new programming, with seven new dramas slated; three reality shows, including La Isla de la Tentacion,
a Spanish-language version of Fox's Temptation Island, also are planned. "The audience wants novellas, but we are going to mix in variety," said Telemundo President Jim McNamara. Telemundo will spend about $150 million on programming next season—or as McNamara once joked to NBC's Wright, the cost of about four episodes of ER.
(Univision would not comment on its budget.)

Carat Multicultural Managing Director Lisa Contreras says she's intrigued by Telemundo's higher-risk reality shows. "Telemundo has proven that yes, audience does like novellas. It's a mainstay in their lives, but they are up for something different."

Univision, meanwhile, is sticking with a programming strategy that has worked, drawing heavily on international partnerships, as with Mexican broadcaster Televisa, to program the network. "It's how they became No. 1, so why change something that works?" Contreras said.

Univision's slate for next season includes six new prime time novellas
during the 2002-03 season and an animated series, Baldo, about a multi-generational Hispanic-American family.

The network is experimenting, with quirky two-hour variety and game show ¿Quién Dijo Miedo?
and cheeky comedy Playa Tropical. Univision also boasts rights to the 2002 World Cup Soccer tournament, which will air on the flagship channel, Telefutura and cable net Galavision.

Telefutura also unveiled its upcoming programming, including an Hispanic take on classic game show The Family Feud
called ¿Qué Dice la Gente?, a co-production of Fremantle Media and Televisa. Telefutura aims to counter-program Univision, so its novellas
air in the morning and early fringe. The upcoming slate includes seven new ones.

Univision execs said they welcome NBC's role because new advertisers may enter the market. "NBC may ... because of power and arm-twisting, get company X to buy time," said Univision's Rodriguez. "When they do their homework, they'll see Univision."