Spanish-language nets seek bigger piece of pie

May 21, 2001  •  Post A Comment

At its upfront presentation to more than 900 U.S. Hispanic agency executives and their clients last week in New York, Univision began positioning itself as the Spanish-language Viacom or AOL Time Warner, able to deliver multiple media in a single buy.
In addition to the Univision channel that already draws 77 percent of the Hispanic audience, the Spanish-language network will launch a second channel, still unnamed, in January. Its 8-month-old Internet portal, Univision.com, already has 5 million unique users and reaches 80 percent of Spanish-language Web surfers. And Univision-owned cable network Galavision has grown from 3 million to 4 million subscribers in the past year. The newest piece is Univision Music Group, formed last month after the company purchased a Mexican record company.
“Clients want more and more the ability to make one decision,” said Tom McGarrity, Univision’s president of network sales. “We can do it in Spanish language.”
The mission of Univision’s second network will be to steal its audience from English-language networks. It will offer an alternative to the main, soap-opera-heavy Univision channel by targeting men with more sports shows and young people. “At any time, 40 percent to 45 percent of Spanish-dominant viewers are watching English-language TV,” said Ray Rodriguez, Univision’s president and chief operating officer.
Despite the new ventures, Univision has been steadily trimming staff this year. Mr. Rodriguez said he thought fewer than 100 people were cut. He also denied speculation that The Walt Disney Co. will take a stake in Univision, an attractive acquisition target. “We don’t need it,” he said.
The star of the Hispanic upfront was, unsurprisingly, the 2000 U.S. Census. Univision opened its presentation with clips from English-language news programs, such as ABC’s “Nightline,” focusing on the fast-growing U.S. Hispanic population. Now Hispanic broadcasters are hoping that numbers like 35.3 million Hispanics with $444 billion in buying power will help drive upfront sales.
“Most of my clients tell me they’re cutting back on general market [budgets], but none are cutting back on Hispanic,” said Alex Lopez Negrete, president and CEO of independent Hispanic agency Lopez Negrete, Houston. Last year, Univision posted upfront sales of $501 million, and No. 2 network Telemundo, which is billing itself as the fastest-growing Spanish-language network, saw about $175 million.