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Q&A with Comcast Spotlight Director of Multicultural Sales Phillip Woodie

Comcast Spotlight, the advertising-sales division of Comcast Cable, in October rolled out “Tu Conexión Latina,” one of the industry’s most extensive lineups of Spanish-language networks that feature local ad-insertion opportunities. The networks included in the Miami launch are MTV Tr3s, ESPN Deportes, CNN en Español, GolTV, Canal Sur, History Channel en Español and WAPA-TV. They join an existing lineup of Galavisión, Mun2 and Fox Sports en Español. Phillip Woodie, director or multicultural sales, answered a series of e-mail questions from Hispanic Television Update about the launch, Hispanic audience trends and the importance of cable in the upcoming 2008 elections. An edited transcript follows.

Q: In 2004 you became the director of multicultural sales at Comcast Spotlight and joined the company after many years in Spanish-language TV. What was that change like?

A: It was very similar to my experience at Univision and Azteca America. When I joined Univision in 1996, we had just split network sales and national spot sales from one team, selling both to two individual teams. Thus, it was like we were starting from scratch. There were a lot of changes in the way we did business in terms of policy, procedure, protocol, standards and practices, etc. It was a whole new way of executing the business. At Azteca America, I started their U.S. sales operations from my New York City apartment. In the beginning, it was just myself … then we added a sales person and a marketing person, but for about a year and a half it was just us three covering the country for the network and their 24 affiliates on the national spot side as well. We were starting from ground zero. … We had to educate clients and agencies about this new offering. Moreover, we had to educate Mexico on how business is done here.

Coming to Comcast Spotlight was not very different. Comcast has a lot of heavily Hispanic markets, four of the top 10 and 11 of the top 20, and they were trying to position their unique offerings to advertisers trying to reach those markets.

Q: Do you think cable has a genuine chance to challenge the broadcasters, both in terms of audiences and advertising budgets?

A: Certainly. If you look at the latest trends in Spanish-language television, one of the things most apparent is the growth of cable. There are now 75 Spanish-language cable offerings, and all of them are at varying stages within their growth curve as it relates to distribution, ad sales, etc. As the market continues to evolve, cable will continue to grow. There will be a shift: Where the eyeballs go, the dollars will follow.

[To be sure], cable will never post gigantic ratings like Univision. That is not what cable is about. Cable is about putting an advertiser’s message in a highly targeted environment whose viewers have a higher propensity to purchase your product or service. It is about zoning in on the client’s specific demographic and psychographic targets with far greater efficiency and less waste.

Q: On October 1, Comcast Spotlight began offering ad insertion on seven additional Spanish-language networks in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale DMA. What has been the response so far? 

A: The response had been fantastic. When we first went out and spoke with agencies and clients about what we were planning to do in Miami, there was much excitement in the advertising marketplace. We received a lot of good feedback which helped us craft Tu Conexión Latina.

Q: Which advertisers are already reaching their multicultural audiences through the offer of Comcast Spotlight?

A: [We have] a list of blue chip accounts such as Mercedes, Sprint, McDonalds, Wendy’s, Infiniti, Ikea, Papa Johns, [Volkswagen], Goya and three divisions of [General Motors], just to name a few. Our portfolio of Spanish-language cable networks offers something very different to the marketplace. … Research tells us that cable viewers are more of a premium audience than Spanish broadcast viewers. Most cable viewers tend to be more educated, with a higher income, and more likely to own their own homes — and equally Spanish-dominant/Spanish-English language. 

Q: How do you think the 2008 elections will impact the company’s performance in the multicultural space?

A: One of the problems the agencies and consultants for political advertisers have echoed time and time again is the issue of “big ratings don’t equal big voters!” What they mean by this is that they don’t care about how big the ratings are. What they are most concerned about is how many of those viewers are registered to vote and even more importantly how many voted in the last election.

Political advertising is a perfect example of how cable can be effective. With cable, you have the ability to not only target the Hispanic segment of a particular DMA but also [to] “zone in” on those who are registered and those who are consistent voters. That is what the agencies and consultants are asking for, and that is what cable does best. Everyone anticipates large spending and Comcast Spotlight is poised to garner some of those dollars.