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Hispanic Networks Start Pitching

Univision and Telemundo are looking to capitalize on the recent growth of Spanish-language media at next month's Hispanic upfront. While market leader Univision is angling to pull a larger share of advertising from English-language broadcast networks, its NBC Universal-owned cable competitor is pitching itself as the more nimble and accommodating partner on product integration and new media.

Spanish-language media is one of the industry's fastest-growing sectors, with projected 5.4% growth this year over 2006, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Spanish-language TV advertising grew 13.9% in 2006 to $4.28 billion, according to the company.

Last year, Hispanic networks, including TV Azteca and Univision sibling Telefutura, were added to the Nielsen Television Index (NTI), the national sample that tracks the English-language broadcast networks. (They were previously tracked in a separate Hispanic-TV sample). Since joining the NTI sample, Univision says that, in 2006, it beat ABC, CBS, NBC or Fox on 205 nights among adults 18-34 with its popular telenovelas, news and variety-show stalwart Sábado Gigante.

In its bid to siphon away ad dollars from English-language broadcast networks, Univision plans to tout a study by Simmons Market Research showing that it has the most engaged viewers of any broadcast or cable network. The study finds that 63% of Univision viewers watch all or most commercials on the network, compared with 39% who watch them on English-language broadcast networks.

Univision Co-President of Network Sales Dennis McCauley says the company's inclusion in the NTI “proves acceptance” in the English-language TV world: “We're in a stronger place than ever, and we're hoping people will see the necessity of moving dollars from English- to Spanish-language.”

Waiting for Uva

New Univision CEO Joe Uva, who has revealed little about his plans for the company since joining earlier this month, is slated to speak at the presentation. And given that his previous job was president of media agency OMD Worldwide, buyers are anxious to see what he'll do now that he sits on the other side of the table.

“We're all kind of wondering what kind of changes he'll bring about,” says Adrienne Stephenson, a media supervisor at Tapestry, a division of Starcom's multicultural group. “We're always looking for increased flexibility from them in terms of the content.”

Telemundo, meanwhile, continues to tout the fact that it owns its content, whereas Univision buys some three-quarters of its primetime novelas from Mexican programmer Grupo Televisa. That enables Telemundo to integrate sponsors' products into its programs from the outset, more easily syndicate shows abroad, and create digital spinoffs for its year-old Yahoo! Telemundo site.

“We've built this very complicated business model on original content, and we continue to perfect that,” says Telemundo President Don Browne. “We've gotten tremendous credibility in the marketplace because of that.”

Univision and its sister networks command nearly 80% of the Hispanic audience share and will more than double Telemundo's upfront dollars this year. The network has averaged 3.6 million viewers with primetime programming so far this season; sister network Telefutura brought in 624,000. Telemundo has averaged 845,000 viewers.

Media buyers acknowledge Univision's stature and a dip in Telemundo's ratings this year but say they've been impressed with what Telemundo has presented in recent meetings. Tapestry, for example, just integrated Ritz crackers into a Telemundo novela and online contest. And buyers say Telemundo can be a bargain compared with the hefty premiums Univision seeks for its reach.

“Telemundo is continuing to understand that they are not the biggest guy in town,” says Caleb Windover, managing director of Mediavest's multicultural group, Forty Two Degrees. “But they damn well are priced attractively, and they are making more strides than ever to extend beyond spots and dots to get to that holy grail of integration.”

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