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Three Hispanic Upfronts Memes: Clinton, Snacks and Music Rule

Spanish-language programmers big (Univision, Telemundo), not quite so big (Azteca America, NBC Universo, Estrella TV) and sportive (ESPN Deportes) made their own pitches to advertisers, buyers and press at upfronts in New York last week, with a few themes that stuck out to The Wire.

Bill Clinton Gets Noticed. Univision’s Tuesday morning (May 12) gathering at the Lyric Theater had the big “get” of the week in the form of a Q&A with the 42nd president of the United States. He emphasized the importance of Hispanic Americans’ purchasing power, saying, “There’s data available, and I’d get it and study it if I were an advertiser.” He also said Hispanics’ purchasing power will grow as Latinos become a bigger part of the work force and more highly educated. The message was potent enough that later, that evening at NBCUniversal Hispanic Group’s upfront, group chairman Joe Uva drew knowing laughs and applause when he declared on stage, “As many of you probably heard from former President Clinton this morning, the power and influence of this community is stronger than ever —and we agree!” When the overseer of Telemundo alludes to Univision in a complimentary way, that’s news.

Snackables on the Menu. Amid talk of new drama series, novelas and big sports events like FIFA World Cups (NBCU Hispanic networks, including the new NBC Deportes unit) and UEFA European Championships (ESPN Deportes), short digital videos found a strong foothold. Broadcaster Estrella TV is creating a multichannel network called Fenomeno Studios to make short videos from the likes of musical parody performer Don Cheto and Luis Coronel and then put them on Instagram and various other platforms. ESPN Deportes is launching Quick Hits-branded short videos, including series like SportsCenter Ahora, Pitazo Final (soccer analysis) and ESPiaNdo (American sports). And NBCU got a rise out of upfront attendees with a demonstration of Double Acción, a second-screen app that streams content complementing what’s being shown on TV during scripted series, even down to having one of the characters in the show call the person on the mobile phone that’s running the app.

Music, Fun Still Matter: Hispanic programmers enjoy a good party. Clinton, at the Univision upfront, even joked that he was the warm-up act for Ricky Martin, who performed after the presentation. Reggaeton star Daddy Yankee, a judge on Telemundo’s La Voz Kids, got NBCU Hispanic attendees off their feet at Rose Hall. Skylar Grey sang at Estrella TV’s gathering at Bryant Park Grill. Azteca put senior executives to work in a “Chicago”-style number at the Best Buy Theater May 11, backed by the Tango Azteca dancers, after an opening performance by the Freelusion dance troupe. CEO Manuel Abud observed Freelusion is from Hungary, the director is Mexican and the choreographer is a New Yorker. “So what’s next, a novela from the Middle East?” he joked. (No, but the network has picked up rights to air the cool-looking Turkish drama Kaçak, so that’s kind of close.)

—Kent Gibbons

A Baller and a Player Kill Two Bottles of Wine and Tequila

Atlanta-based Inside The NBA hosts Shaquille O’Neal, Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley brought their irreverent and entertaining act to New York as hosts for Turner Broadcasting System’s upfront presentation on May 13 —and promptly stole the show.

Armed with new long-term deals to continue as hosts for TNT’s shoulder series for the network’s live National Basketball Association game coverage, the four personalities didn’t hesitate to make light of Turner execs — and themselves — during their the pre-upfront, halftime and post-upfront stints at the event.

The outspoken Barkley took a shot at Smith’s reality series Meet the Smiths on TBS, saying that no one is going to sit and watch that “shitty” show on Friday nights. Smith retorted that Barkley seems to have a lot of interest in his life because he’s constantly texting Smith to find out what he’s doing.

Barkley also said that prior to the new deal, TBS Sports president David Levy came to his house armed with two bottles of wine and tequila to help secure his long-term services. “We killed them,” Barkley said, referring to the liquor. Later, during a Turner press luncheon, Levy would clarify that he and Barkley weren’t the only ones at the house partaking.

—R. Thomas Umstead

Update: This story was corrected on May 18 to state that La Voz Kids is on Telemundo, not NBC Universo.