Hispanic TV Summit: Consolidation Would Help Category, Dish's Mendiola Says

Smaller channels aimed at Hispanic audiences don't always have the resources to produce compelling content, and the quality of programming would improve if they joined forces, Dish Latino general manager Rubén Mendiola said.

"I hope the industry is ready for consolidation," Mendiola said Wednesday on a panel at the Multichannel News/Broadcasting & Cable Hispanic Television Summit 2010.

"We will benefit from having stronger channels everywhere."

Some Latino channels reach as few as 200,000 homes, he pointed out: "If your resources are mainly from what the distributor is paying you, you have a limited amount of money... You don't have a lot of advertisers because you don't have viewers."

Comcast, for its part, is focused on expanding the number of choices to its Hispanic customer base, said Homer González, director of products and services for Comcast Media Center.

"We're concentrating on value, being able to bring a wide breadth of Hispanic content to the market, and out of that we'll see what resonates or doesn't resonate," González said. "Our ability to communicate the value of that investment is upon us, and it's shared by the programmers."

Comcast has increased its programming lineup to provide up to 60 Spanish-language networks in its footprint, which is "significantly more than we've seen in the past and that will continue," he said. The MSO also plans to increase the number of video-on-demand selections for Hispanic viewers as much as fivefold, González said.

For some Hispanic programmers, the big challenge is building viewer awareness, said Guillermo Sierra, Vme Media's chief content officer and senior vice president.

Vme's 40 over-the-air networks are available in 75% of U.S. Hispanic homes, and the stations are available on cable, Dish, DirecTV, AT&T U-verse and Verizon FiOS. Yet many viewers in the target markets don't know the channels are available to them.

"Now we're 100% focused on growing awareness," Sierra said. "We're already in people's TV sets but we haven't been able to touch their minds."

Hispanic programmers face similar challenges in driving viewers to content on other platforms, including VOD, said Jennifer Ball, Univision Communications' senior vice president of affiliate marketing and distribution.

"We've heard Hispanics are definitely early adopters of technology," she said. "But we live in an English-language world, and we launched this great on-demand product but all the barkers are in English... We need to work to point people to this content."

Panelists agreed that video content provided online or to mobile devices must complement linear TV. "If you put everything on your pay-TV channel online for free... Why am I going to pay you?" Dish's Mendiola said.

Sierra, however, said making shows available online the day after air doesn't cannibalize the main TV service. "Primetime for computers is 3 to 5 p.m., when people are at work," he said. "If it's a catch-up service, it's a great marketing tool."

Meanwhile, Mendiola called on advertisers to step up their efforts to back Hispanic programming and for networks to more aggressively fight for ad dollars, although he gave a shout-out to Telemundo's mun2, saying, "they have some great advertisers."

Antonio Briceño, Imagina USA's vice president of programming and distribution, echoed the point: "I've seen great presentations from advertisers, but they're not in any of our networks. It's only the infomercial people who are taking advantage of the power of the reach our networks have."

At the same time, some Hispanic networks may be wasting their most valuable airtime, Mendiola suggested. Dish, which works with Rentrak to aggregate and analyze viewing behavior from its set-top boxes, found the data shows Hispanic households watch a significant amount of TV on weekend mornings. But many networks run infomercials in that time slot, Mendiola said.

"Their best window is spent on a chopper... or erectile dysfunction," he said.

The panel, "Increasing Distribution of Hispanic Video Content," was moderated by B&C programming editor Marisa Guthrie.