A Powerful Voice for Latinos

In Los Angeles, Univision's powerhouse station KMEX commands nearly a third of the market share among adults 18-49, regardless of language. The station is routinely top-rated among all Los Angeles TV stations in key news and entertainment dayparts. And in several months recently, KMEX even ranked as the most-watched TV station in the country.

To keep up such a streak, General Manager Maelia Macin says her station must always provide its community with top-notch news, entertainment and information. “We bring our viewers news from their home countries, Los Angeles and this country. We are their lifeline,” Macin says. “We entertain them, too, but we're always working to educate and empower our viewers.”

Having spent more than two decades in Hispanic media, Macin is well-schooled in the Latino market. Her commitment to Spanish-language broadcasting and KMEX's continued success have earned Macin recognition as one of Broadcasting & Cable's General Managers of the Year.

In October 2007, Macin (whose name is pronounced Mah-ELLE-lee-uh Mah-SEEN) took over as VP/general manager for Univision's Los Angeles duopoly, KMEX and its TeleFutura sister outlet KFTR. Previously, she spent almost two years as GM of Univision's two stations in Austin, Texas, Univision outlet KAKW and TeleFutura station KBVO. She previously worked at KMEX in the 1990s as a local sales executive.

Throughout her career, it's been Macin's challenge to serve the diverse audience of U.S. Hispanics, who hail from across the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central and South America and, depending on how long they've been here, have varying degrees of assimilation into American culture. While their individual cultures may be different, Macin says, “We all have a common language.” In addition, she says, U.S. Hispanics face similar issues, including literacy, health and finance: “We cover all the issues that affect our market. It doesn't matter where people are from because these issues hit home.”

Like other stations, KMEX is worried about the digital transition in February. Latinos are considered one of the most vulnerable groups in the conversion, because many watch over-the-air TV and may not be informed about how to get converter boxes or which TV sets are digital-ready.

To aid those viewers, Macin's duopoly created the “Escuadrón Digital,” digital street teams that stage local events to educate Hispanics on digital TV. Staffers help Latinos sign up for coupons for converter boxes and pass out information. In addition, KMEX is staging occasional digital tests, turning off its analog for a minute every hour on designated days and times. The station alerts weeks in advance and advertises that a phone bank manned by station staffers will be available to answer questions.

Born in Guantánamo, Cuba, Macin moved to the U.S. when she was 5. Her family settled in McAllen, Texas, and she attended Southwest Texas State University, where she earned a degree in education. She then went on to graduate school in advertising at the University of Texas in Austin. Her husband is of Mexican descent and her two sons, who are 9 and 4, are bilingual.

Macin began her career while in graduate school working for NuStats, a Hispanic market research firm. She was its first bilingual interviewer and managed testing of advertising campaigns. When the company set up shop in Los Angeles, she headed west. Soon after, she joined Datel Entertainment, which specialized in marketing products from Mexico to U.S. Hispanics.

At the urging of colleagues, in 1992 Macin decided to try out local TV sales. The only job she could find was as a sales assistant at KMEX, but after just three months, she moved up to be an account executive. One of her first accounts was an L.A.-area pizza chain, La Pizza Loca, which continues to advertise on the station.

To further her experience, in 1995 Macin moved to Univision's sales department at the network's Miami headquarters. She returned to KMEX in 1996, moving up to become local sales manager.

In 2006, Macin earned her first GM post in Austin. Univision's stations were just three years old, and the station was still trying to establish its place in the market. Macin added a late local news and local programs. In addition, the stations became active in community events, and the sales team cultivated new advertisers.

“Her efforts drove [us] to increased ratings and more sales revenue for the stations,” says Joanne Lynch, president of Univision's television station group.

By the time Macin departed for L.A. in October 2007, KAKW was No. 1 in the market and the fastest-growing Univision O&O. But when Macin returned to KMEX, the station was reeling from a news scandal and the departure of two top executives, former news director Jorge Mettey and former GM Jorge Delgado. The executives were dismissed following a Univision ethics investigation into coverage related to the governor of Puebla, Mexico.

A Stabilizing Force

So she has had some mending to do. But among peers, she's viewed as a stabilizing force. In the Los Angeles community, Macin is a member of the California Commission on the Status of Women, and a member of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.

“She is a very positive and bright person, and that permeates through the whole station,” says Tony Aguilar, head of media buying and planning for Los Angeles-based Hispanic media agency Acento Advertising.

Aguilar notes that Macin has reinvigorated the KMEX sales department, encouraging sponsorships and packaging. “There is creativity in coming up with promotional ideas lately, and they are being very aggressive,” he says. “Before, you wouldn't think of KMEX for certain packages because they would not be a cost-effective place to do business. But that has changed, and there is a different perspective there now.”

One of Macin's top objectives has been growing the advertiser base. Despite her stations' commanding ratings, she says many advertisers pass over Spanish-language stations either because they don't have Spanish-language ads or don't understand Hispanics' growth and spending power.

One innovation to encourage new advertisers is “Team ROI” (for return on investment). KMEX salespeople craft sponsorships to bring on new clients who might not have their own budgets or creative materials to advertise on the stations.

One recent effort was crafted for a salsa company looking to test the waters. The company didn't have resources for traditional spots, so KMEX featured its products in healthy-living segments for lifestyle programs, touting salsa as a key ingredient for healthier food. The company was so pleased with the results in sales and raising its profile that it is now producing Spanish-language commercials.

Such efforts are keeping Univision strong in Los Angeles, according to Lynch. Macin, she says, “understands how diverse and dynamic our audiences are, and therefore continues to find ways to build a connection.”

But Macin admits a little frustration about breaking down the Hispanic ad barrier: “There are still so many advertisers whose lights haven't gone on yet.”