By Lee Alan Hill
Special to TelevisionWeek
It’s one thing for a network to celebrate its 25th anniversary. It’s another to do it so far ahead of the competition.
Galavision, the 24-hour Spanish-language cable network owned by Univision, reached the quarter-century milestone this month, having just come off a third quarter in which it boasted 48 of the top 50 programs in Spanish-language cable.
The network outdelivers the 13 other measured Spanish-language cable networks combined, and it does so by 22 percent in total-day figures and 32 percent in prime time for the most recent broadcast season, according to the Nielsen Hispanic Television Index.
Regardless of language, Galavision is the top cable network for Hispanic adults 18 to 49 and 18 to 34, according to Nielsen, and has tripled both its distribution and its adult audience since 1996.
“As the undisputed Spanish-language cable network of choice, Galavision’s fantastic success has been fueled by the immense popularity of its programming,” said Ray Rodriguez, president and chief operating officer of parent company Univision. Because of company policy, Mr. Rodriguez’s comments were provided by the network through e-mail, as were those of other Galavision employees.
“We pride ourselves in providing a live, direct connection to the people, places and events that matter most to Hispanic America,” said Joanne Lynch, senior VP and general manager of Galavision.
Galavision, a 24-hour service, offers 45 hours per week of live news, sports and entertainment programming, reaching almost 6 million Hispanic TV subscribers and 40 million viewers. It can be seen in 83 percent of U.S. Hispanic TV households.
Based in Miami, with executive offices in New York, Galavision is a far cry from what it was in 1979, when Rene Anselmo created the network in Mexico City as part of his Satellite International Network empire. At the outset, the network offered mostly feature films and miniseries.
After its sale in 1986 to Hallmark, first-run programming increased, much of it acquired under the direction of then-president Joaquin Blaya. Much of the programming was purchased from Mexico’s Televisa.
Hallmark sold to a consortium of A. Jerrold Perenchio, Televisa and Venevision in 1992, and Galavision was relaunched as a cable network. Through the 1990s, while its programming was bilingual, Galavision began to increase its audience, particularly through the acquisition of sports events, such as the 1998 rights deal with the Futbol Liga Mexicana, Mexico’s most competitive soccer league.
The network further expanded its audience in 2002 when it abandoned bilingual programming in favor of all-Spanish. The only English that can be heard is in occasional late-night commercials.
“Galavision’s viewership and ratings have skyrocketed since we changed our format from a mix of English and Spanish to all-Spanish-language programming,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “And we expect those increases to continue.”
Advertisers, who a decade ago were hesitant to invest in Spanish-language networks, have seen the light-and the viewers. Early in October, Miller Brewing Co. solidified a $100 million cross-platform advertising and marketing deal with Univision to be spread among the company’s properties, which include Galavision as well as Univision and TeleFutura.
While the arrangement has not yet been broken down as to how the dollars will be spent on Galavision specifically, there are indications that Galavision sports will be a particular beneficiary. Soccer on Galavision delivers seven times as many adult males 18 to 49 as similar programming on its closest competitor, Fox Sports en Espa%F1;ol.
“This agreement gives us a very real long-term competitive advantage in connecting with adult Hispanic beer drinkers,” said Luis Altuve, director of multicultural marketing for Miller. Univision’s Ron Furman, executive VP of network sales and marketing, put it a different way. “Miller has taken a monumental step in recognizing the importance of advertising to Hispanics in Spanish,” he said.
Sports programming, particularly soccer, remains key to the network’s success. In 2005, Galavision will feature five leading tournaments. “Hispanics know they can turn to Galavision for the excitement of soccer and boxing,” Ms. Lynch said, adding that the network is always on the lookout to satisfy the needs of “dedicated sports fanaticos.”
But Galavision does not live by sports alone. Much of its day is filled with news and news-entertainment programming. The network offered all three presidential debates during the just-ended campaign season.
New entertainment shows this season expand Galavision into reality programs with “Hasta el Limite” (“To the Limit”), which presents 12 people in search of ultimate adventure. “La Rochela” (“Comedy Commotion”) mixes skits and stand-up comedy with celebrity guests. “Archivos de M%E1;s All%E1;” (“Files From Beyond”) explores the unexplained.
Already the new offerings are demonstrating strong audience appeal. “Vida Total” (“Total Life”), a health and lifestyles magazine, has doubled viewership in the Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. time slot over last season, while “Con Todo” (“With Everything”), a daily afternoon entertainment and gossip series, has increased its adults 18 to 49 audience by 11 percent.
Galavision programming originating from Miami has won 10 Suncoast Regional Emmy Awards, given for TV airing in Florida and portions of states on the Gulf of Mexico.