In Depth

Where Is Hispanic TV on Web?

High-Media-User Latino Audiences Underserved by Industry So Far

Hulu last week rolled out a batch of new initiatives to make the Web-video site appealing to more users. One group of users that was left out: Spanish speakers.

That oversight may not be surprising, given the television advertising industry's ambivalent attitude toward the demographic. As networks get more comfortable with Web delivery of TV shows, however, look for them to try to capture Hispanic and bilingual audiences online and via mobile video.

"More and more you see that advertisers want to look multi-platform options to reach their consumers, and the Hispanic audiences are high media users," said Leticia Juarez, VP of Media and Promotions for the Hispanic ad firm Castells. "The opportunity is there, and it's a missed opportunity for a segment that is growing tremendously."

Telemundo Executive VP of Digital Media and Emerging Businesses Peter E. Blacker said that his Spanish-language network has participated in discussions with Hulu, a joint venture between NBC Universal, News Corp. and Walt Disney Co.'s ABC. A deal with the site is something that may happen in the future, Mr. Blacker said.

"I think it's just been a matter of timing," Mr. Blacker added. "We had to first get our new Telemundo.com up and running. We launched our new site in January, and we've seen our video numbers as well as our audience numbers skyrocket, but we had to get that under control first."

He said Telemundo is interested in getting its content onto other Web video sites "in the near future."

Telemundo and Hulu, both subsidies of General Electric, began talks about having Telemundo content appearing on the site three months after Hulu's launch. Since then, the network has been focusing on establishing its online video brand and nurturing a committed audience.

In addition to hosting full episodes of its telenovela prime-time content, Telemundo.com also allows viewers to react and interact with other fans to specific scenes.

A representative for Hulu did not respond to requests seeking comment.

Hispanic and bilingual audiences continue to be more elusive online than non-Hispanic, English-speaking audiences. Part of the problem may stem from Spanish-language media's failure to deliver content the way its audience wants to consume it.

According to a study that the Simmons research company performed for bilingual music entertainment network MTV Tr3s, many Hispanic media consumers are less tethered to a computer than non-Hispanic counterparts. By the same token, they demonstrate greater hunger for online video content.

Of the 20.6 million Hispanics online each month, those using the Web for watching and downloading video outpace non-Hispanic Web users, according to a North American Technographics Benchmark Survey for Telemundo.

Among those seeking online video, a larger amount would also prefer Spanish-language content over English.

Given Hispanics' less prevalent use of computers to access Web video, it may not be surprising that more viewers in that group prefer mobile devices to watch clips than in non-Spanish speaking demographics.

MTV Tr3s VP of Programming and Production Lily Neumeyer said her network's strategy for online and mobile video is, like Telemundo's, to build an audience.

The network, which aims for younger viewers, currently focuses its online video content on supplementing its broadcast shows by featuring additional clips, interviews and music performances. The goal is to drive traffic to the network and build awareness of its brand.

"We really believe in exposing our audience to our content in a multiplatform basis," said Ms. Neumeyer. "We do know that young people are interacting with content everywhere, but we'd like to really asses how much is too much and how much is too little, because our main purpose right now is to grow our distribution and our exposure on air."

Networks that traffic in Spanish-language and bilingual video content also face a challenge that bedevils their English-language counterparts: No one has figured out a way to profit from it on the same scale that old-fashioned TV does.

And Spanish-language media companies may find that some of the same problems that have challenged them in the television business--marketers who don't understand how to sell to Hispanic audiences--persist in the Web-video world.

"As an advertiser, we want to associate our brand with content that is Hispanic-relevant, culturally relevant, and that is quality premium programming," said Ms. Juarez. "The content is there, but it's the deals that have to be struck."