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Spanish-Language TV Hits Stride at Upfront Market

May 26, 2003  •  Post A Comment

For the first time ever, at the 2003 upfront, Univision, the No. 1 Spanish-language network, broke right along with the big English-language broadcast networks.
One reason for the parity, according to Tom McGarrity, Univision’s co-president of network sales, is that advertisers have finally begun to assimilate the U.S. Census data about the growth of the Hispanic-American population. Another reason is that this year Univision went early to make its pitch to its 120-advertiser base.
Both Univision and No. 2-ranked Spanish-Language network Telemundo are expecting ad revenue increases of 15 percent to 20 percent for the new season.
“We’re writing business earlier than we’ve ever written in the seven upfronts that we’ve been doing upfronts,” he said. “We usually trail the prime-time English [networks] by weeks, if not more than a month.”
Yet another reason-a “real turbo,” according to Mr. McGarrity-is that NBC, new owner of Telemundo, is talking to “all 200-plus of their advertisers about the Spanish-language market. … NBC is saying to them, `Hey guys, you should be taking a hard look at this.”’
Those new advertisers are taking a look and they’re gravitating to Univision as well, Mr. McGarrity said. With 100-plus advertisers not yet in the Spanish-language market, there’s room for more explosive growth.
“We do 4.5 percent of the audience,” said Mr. McGarrity. “We do less than 2 percent of the revenue.”
One miniscule category certain to grow this upfront: pharmaceuticals.
In fact, according to James McNamara, Telemundo’s president and CEO, his network had exactly one pharmaceutical advertiser going into the upfront: Viagra.
But that is expected to change in the new season, and pharmaceuticals will be one of the four ad categories that will continue to fuel Spanish-language television’s phenomenal growth, according to James McNamara, Telemundo’s president and CEO.
“I mean, Hispanics have acid reflux, Hispanics have high blood pressure, Hispanics have osteoporosis, they have diabetes,” said Mr. McNamara. “Every pharmaceutical [advertiser] that is on general market [English-language television] should be on Hispanic [television].”
The other categories that will drive Hispanic growth “big time,” Mr. McNamara said, are financial services, automotive and the movie business.
One way Telemundo’s ad revenues will be up 15 percent to 20 percent in the new season, according to NBC chairman and CEO Bob Wright, is, “We will sell Telemundo advertising along with NBC advertising, so that gives us access to the very best buyers, and we’ll negotiate hard for the right kind of pricing.”
One big-ticket programming lure at Telemundo will be the 100-plus hours of Summer Olympics coverage the network will offer in Spanish. Another is likely to be the Jennifer Lopez-produced series that are in the Telemundo development pipeline and which could cross over to NBC itself.
“I would like nothing better than to be able to take a Telemundo show and put it on the NBC Television Network,” Mr. Wright told TelevisionWeek.
Over at Hispanic-sector-leader Univision, the upfront predictions and prospects are equally rosy. For one thing, 49 of the top-50 Spanish-language shows season-to-date aired on Univision, according to Ray Rodriguez, president and chief operating officer, Univision Television Networks. The only non-Univision series in the top 50 was the Super Bowl, he added.
In fact, the top-ranked shows on English-language television-Joe Millionaire, Friends and CSI-barely register in Hispanic households, according to Mario Rodriguez, president of entertainment, Univision Television Networks. “In our market they could not be more cold,” he said, citing data showing that this season among Hispanic viewers the three shows ranked number 131, 189 and 334, respectively.
“Hispanics choose Spanish-language television over general-market TV every hour of every day of the year,” Mr. Rodriguez said, “and that happens because of the cultural connection and the cultural relevance available only here.”
Pharmaceuticals and wireless are two of the growth categories at Univision, Mr. McGarrity said, though he called the emphasis on Viagra as the sole-or one of the few-Spanish-language pharma advertisers, misplaced. “That category is still going to be a relatively small category for the next year or so,” according to Mr. McGarrity.
Eye-opening Hispanic demographic and socio-economic data from the 2000 U.S. Census have so far fueled the 21st century boom in Spanish-language television; American Hispanics are both more numerous and have more money to spend than Madison Avenue realized until the Census, and as a group they will be growing younger and more influential in the years ahead.
One result of that Madison Avenue revelation: Hispanic TV ad revenues grew by more than 20 percent in 2002, according to CMR/TNS Media Intelligence, compared with the English-language broadcast networks and the cable networks, which grew by 7.4 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively, over the previous year.
That Hispanic boom should get another Nielsen-powered boost soon. The all-powerful ratings service has “finally committed to weight the national People Meter sample for Spanish language no later than September 2004,” Dennis McCauley, co-president of network sales, told applauding Spanish-market advertisers at the recent Univision upfront. “And in 2005 it will finally be a unified sample for planning and buying all national media,” he added. “We have called for one sample, the agencies have called for one sample and the clients deserve one sample.”
The Hispanic boom is also fueled by the Hispanic networks’ own realization that they have to appeal to younger, hipper, often bilingual audiences as well as to traditional Hispanic-American novela viewers who tune in for the melodramatic plots and grand passions that are staples of the genre. So along with new youth-appealing spinoff networks such as Univision’s Telefutura and Telemundo’s mun2, a plethora of more sophisticated programming is on the way, including Univision’s Rebeca, the first Hispanic-language interactive novela, for which viewers will be able to vote online to determine the story’s outcome and which of her three suitors Rebeca will choose; Telemundo’s La Cenicienta, a Hispanic version of The Bachelorette, in which all the suitors have to pass muster with the bachelorette’s opinionated and outspoken Hispanic family; Telefutura’s Betty Toons, an animated version of the wildly popular Betty La Fea novela; and mun2’s Twisted Novela Theater, a weekly satire that aims to do to novelas what Mystery Science Theater 3000 did to old science-fiction and horror movies.
Not surprisingly, the heat in the Hispanic market has attracted new competitors as well. S ‘ TV is a new English-language, Latino-themed network scheduled to launch in the fourth quarter. Mexico’s TV Azteca is preparing its own assault on the lucrative and growing American-Hispanic market with Azteca America. And LATV, a local Los Angeles channel airing daily in prime time, which says it targets the younger non-novela audience, is planning a national rollout.
That kind of competition is all to the good, according to Liz Castells-Heard, president and CEO of Castells & Asociados, a national Hispanic marketing and advertising agency headquartered in Los Angeles. She thinks the expanding Hispanic marketplace will draw new viewers from English-language networks, with minimal cannibalization in the Spanish-language world.