Latino Television Arrives as an Upfront Player — and a New Player Arrives in Latino TV

May 23, 2012

Last week’s television upfronts in New York featured a distinct Latin flavor for the first time — and marked a coming-out party of sorts for a new player in the Latino TV marketplace, MundoFox.

Univision and Telemundo have long joined other networks, including NBC, Fox, ABC, ESPN, Turner, CBS and the CW, in making presentations of new programming in order to sell upfront advertising. But this year, Discovery U.S. Hispanic, Fox Hispanic Media, V-ME and MTV’s Tr3s were also part of the four-day series of events that drew a fray of advertisers, industry executives and talent, media buyers and journalists from all over the world to various venues around the city.

On Tuesday, May 15, 2012, top-rated Univision took over the New Amsterdam Theater for its high-energy presentation, including an appearance by "Modern Family" star Sofia Vergara and a performance by Shakira. In previous years, performers have included Ricky Martin and Pit Bull, making this probably the only upfront where attendees got to shake their booties.

This year, its presentation came on the heels of the major announcement that it is partnering with ABC News on an English-language news channel set to launch in early 2013.

Ad sales chief David Lawenda was in the midst of a prop-laden demonstration of the power of Univision’s audience when Vergara strutted out on stage in a leopard print dress. “Honey, I may work somewhere else, but this is where I live," she said, alluding to Univision’s upfront tagline, "Latinos Live Here," before going on to introduce network president Cesar Conde in a comedic skit that featured a very young look-alike of the exec.

Lawenda said Univision attracts 73% of the U.S. Hispanic audience and beat NBC on 195 nights this season in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic coveted by many advertisers.

But from the looks of things, there is very stiff competition in luring the Spanish-speaking audience to inhabiting other places as well, and partaking of programming — and advertising — geared toward them.

In an evening presentation hosted by actor/producer Wilmer Valderrama at the High Line Ballroom, MTV Tr3s, Música y Más announced eight new programs designed to appeal to a bilingual/bicultural audience, which the network calls acculturated Hispanic millennials, with an emphasis on pop culture and music.

Programming includes a second season of “The Ricardo Laguna Project,” a docu-series focused on a Mexican-American BMX pro and his bicultural family in Las Vegas; “The Golden Boys,” a half-hour show that tracks the legendary Oscar De La Hoya as he trains, promotes and mentors three up-and-coming fighters; and the comedic series “Culture Swap,” about two young adults, one Latino, with very different cultural backgrounds who switch lives for a week of exposure to another world.

Other shows include “The Chisme Club,” showcasing comedic banter from well-known Latino personalities and stand-ups who reveal their favorite and most absurd pop culture news; “Latino Boot Camp,” which will connect young Latinos to their roots through eye-opening encounters with their ancestors in Latin America; the female-driven competition “From Chongas to Reinas,” where rough Latinas are transformed into well-mannered women; “The Dulce Maria Show,” which follows the performer’s departure from her beloved family and fans to newfound independence and a new culture in Hollywood; and the new suspense thriller novela “Ultimo Año,” about a conniving foreign exchange student who tries to deceive and manipulate the lives of his new host family and friends.

Latin Grammy Award winner Juanes and his band performed to top off the evening.

Aside from Telemundo, the big monkey on Univision’s back may be MundoFox, a Spanish-language network set to launch this August, with the full weight of News Corp. behind it. It’s a joint venture between Fox International Channels and RCN, and will be based in Los Angeles.

MundoFox’s programming slate was unveiled during a clearly messaged presentation at the Ziegfeld Theater, which also included offerings from Fox Hispanic Media’s three other channels: Fox Deportes, the leading Hispanic sports network; Utilísima, a women’s lifestyle network; and Nat Geo Mundo, a nonfiction entertainment network now in its second year.

"We’re bringing something the U.S. Hispanic market needs more of: innovation and choice for both viewers and advertisers,” said Hernán Lopez, president and CEO of Fox International Channels. “Our properties create a synergy that will allow marketers to more effectively reach the new Latino consumer.”

The MundoFox 2012 lineup includes “El Capo,” which follows the story of a rich drug trafficker in Colombia; “Kdabra,” a series that follows a magician-sleuth; action/drama police series “Corazones Blindados”; “Santísimas,” described as the Latina version of “Sex and the City,” about the lives of five women from different backgrounds; “Minuto para Ganar,” a game show adapted from the U.S. show “Minute to Win It” where contestants play 10 challenges, each lasting one minute; and “Los Pobres Ricos,” the story of a wealthy family that loses its riches.

It’s being billed as American-style programming for a Latin audience, and will also include nightly national news and the popular drama “Bones,” dubbed into Spanish.

Just as Fox shook up the established broadcast troika with its debut 25 years ago, major players Univision and rival Telemundo clearly will have a new, young rival with whom to contend.

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