By J. Russell
Special to TelevisionWeek
In Hispanic television, the household-keeping mom remains the demographic of choice for networks and advertisers. But now an emerging youth market-bilingual, techno-savvy and affluent-has found a top spot on marketers’ and programmers’ wish lists.
“Our focus is the 18 to 34 audience, the fastest-growing and most affluent part of the Hispanic market,” said Leo Perez, chief operating officer of SíTV, an English-language cable channel that launched last year. “For advertisers, that is the most attractive part of the Hispanic market. Young Latinos have the purchasing power to buy products, and at end of day it’s not about moving spots-it’s about moving product.”
The skew for NBC Universal’s bilingual network mun2 (pronounced “mundos,” or “worlds,” in Spanish) is slightly younger. “We are trying to reach the 12 to 34 young Latino and Latina, and [this audience] is very reflective of statistics that show that half of U.S. Latinos are between 12 and 34,” said Antoinette Zel, senior VP of network strategy. “While the general market wants to homogenize them by defining them by language, that won’t be your ticket here. It’s culture. … If we take an 18-year-old in San Antonio, and another in the Bronx, or Los Angeles-what makes them all Latino? That’s a unique space, and that’s what the network will speak to.”
Robert Rose, a former sales manager at Spanish-language giant Univision who left to produce English-language programs, ticks off the reasons the Latino youth market is hot: Latinos are young. (U.S.-born Latinos have a median age of 18, according to Mr. Rose.) They don’t watch Spanish-language television. (Only 20 percent of the Spanish audience is U.S.-born, according to research Mr. Rose cites from the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute at USC.) They’re rapidly growing (projected to account for 75 percent of the U.S. Hispanic market by 2020). And finally, they are underrepresented on mainstream U.S. television. (Only 6 percent of prime-time roles for the 2005-06 broadcast season are Latino, according to a study released last month by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, while the Hispanic portion of the U.S. population for 2005 is projected by the U.S. Census Bureau to be 24.7 percent.)
“The English-language Latin market is just now taking off, and it is going nowhere but up,” predicted Mr. Rose, CEO of AIM Tell-A-Vision in New York. “The sooner stations and networks target young, U.S.-born Hispanics, the better off they will be.”
But for now, the female whose dominant language is Spanish still commands plenty of respect.
In his 2004 letter to shareholders, Univision CEO Jerry Perenchio bragged about “regularly carrying more than 90 percent of the most-watched shows on Spanish-language television,” and that’s no idle boast. The network reported television revenues of $1.26 billion last year, up 14 percent from 2003. Univision has announced that revenues from this year’s upfront were more than 20 percent higher than last year-at the same time some mainstream networks faced flat or declining markets. The network’s mainstay advertisers-consumer goods, retailers, telecom, even automotive-all target Hispanic females.
“There is no one core demographic that fits all clients,” said Derene Allen, senior VP of Santiago Solutions Group, a multicultural marketing consultancy. “But in the key demos, you see the Latina mom, the gatekeeper.”
The need to reach Latina mothers explains the dominance of telenovelas. Although often mislabeled “Spanish soap operas,” telenovelas, which have limited runs, have shown an uncanny ability to adapt to growing sophistication in the market. In a 2003 paper titled “The Centrality of Telenovelas to Latin America’s Everyday Life,” Texas A&M University assistant professor Antonio La Pastina and colleagues note: “The open nature of many telenovelas, at least as the genre seems to be progressing in most of Latin America, creates the possibility of its continuous re-adaptation and integration within the urban landscape.”
When Mr. La Pastina talks about telenovelas as part of a “globally interconnected” system, he speaks of both culture and commerce. Most of Univision’s product comes from part-owner Televisa, the Mexican broadcast giant. Other programming includes U.S.-produced telenovelas (often shot in Miami) and programming from Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil (dubbed from Portuguese).
Recent Univision product includes a murder mystery (“La Madrastra”), a love triangle (“Apuesta por un Amor”) and a traditional Cinderella inheritance drama (“Inocente de Ti”). Telemundo, the Spanish-language network owned by NBC Universal, has “Amarte Así,” about a single mother raising a son, and the period piece “Los Plateados.”
Talk and news on Hispanic television also appeal to females, and featured are such staples as “El Show de Cristina” on Univision and “Laura” on Telemundo, along with magazine formats such as Univision’s “Primer Impacto” and Telemundo’s “Sin Fronteras.”
The Hispanic mother has an interesting relationship with the emerging youth demo. First, research shows Latinos tend to watch TV as a family unit, and the mother often controls channel selection. Also, she controls most of the Hispanic market’s purchasing power, estimated at $636 billion and growing, according to the Selig Center at the University of Georgia.
The Latina mother’s “cultural lens is quite different from the general market,” said Santiago Solutions Group’s Ms. Allen. “[The market] is numbers-driven, which also makes the Latina mom so interesting. With so many Hispanics under 35, Hispanic moms are in the prime child-bearing and child-rearing years. The moms are carefully watching what the youth consume.”
Music and Comedy
To attract the youth market, programmers look to music and comedy shows. “We begin with music because there’s a tremendous void of a playlist that addresses these kids,” said Ms. Zel, who spent more than a decade at MTV Latin America before joining mun2 this year. She plans to relaunch the network in October with a new look and new programming. Her team includes Flavio Morales from LATV as VP of programming, and others from the music industry.
Mun2’s big bullet is the pro wrestling extravaganza “Raw,” which is “coming off some high numbers-it’s one of the highest-rated shows for young Latinos,” Ms. Zel said. Grappler Eddie Guerrero provides a natural attraction to the Latino demo. “I think there’s a hunger in the TV industry to have a vehicle that authentically reflects this audience,” Ms. Zel said.
Given SíTV Chairman Jeff Valdez’s background in comedy-he produced “The Brothers Garcia” for Nickelodeon-it seems natural that the channel would plug humor. Mr. Perez points to how “Urban Jungle,” a comic reality show featuring privileged kids who must learn to live in the barrio, works as a social experiment about overcoming stereotypes. SíTV also broadcasts the stand-up show “Latino Laugh Festival.”
Other originals for SíTV include “Styleyes,” a behind-the-scenes look at Latino fashion in New York, and “The Rub,” a forum talker with four hosts who discuss sex, love and relationships. “They’re not going to get this straight talk anywhere else,” Mr. Perez said. “In the Latino culture, you don’t sit around the dinner table talking about condoms.”
SíTV has acquired rights to shows with a Latin flavor such as the sitcom “Greetings From Tucson” (originally on The WB), sci-fi series “Dark Alien” (Fox), family drama “American Family” (PBS) and boxing-themed “Resurrection Blvd.” (Showtime). “We’re proud that we are providing additional windows for shows like ‘American Family’ and ‘Resurrection Blvd.,'” Mr. Perez said, “because if we didn’t pick up those shows, there’s really no place for them.”
Mr. Rose’s AIM Tell-A-Vision distributes several programs on SíTV and in syndication. “American Latino” is a half-hour magazine showcasing
stories of Latinos “on the move and living the American dream.” “Latination,” another magazine, focuses on sports and entertainment.
In terms of defining the English-language market, Mr. Rose referenced “Mind of Mencia” (Comedy Central), “The George Lopez Show” (ABC) and the animated “Dora the Explorer” (Nickelodeon). The future appears to be headed toward more reality, sports and animation for Hispanic viewers. Ms. Zel wants to take advantage of the growing number of Latino icons in major sports, from the NBA’s Manu Ginobili to baseball’s Alex Rodriguez. SíTV plans to air “Road Dogs,” about three traveling Latino stand-up comedians.
“As the market morphs, so does the product,” Ms. Allen said. “You’re seeing Spanish, bilingual and English programs for Hispanics.”
The Media-Agency Axis
Obstacles to development of the youth market include measurement and agency support. Large advertisers typically have one advertising agency to handle English-language advertising (general market) and another for Spanish-language (Hispanic market). English-language ads for Hispanics present a new wrinkle.
“Hispanic agencies are looking to expand by offering other sources such as SíTV as part of the media plan,” Mr. Perez said. “It’s not Spanish or English, but Spanish and English. That English part didn’t exist for Hispanic agencies until last year.”
But Mr. Rose thinks the Spanish-language media-agency axis won’t give up on its successful formula easily. “There is a lot of money-$3 billion-riding on keeping things the same,” he said. “We are here to say there needs to be a reallocation of those funds to match reality. We built our business plan around research; most media in the Hispanic market built their research around their business plan.”
On the measurement front, Hispanic marketers complained about Nielsen’s methodology long before the recent flap over Local People Meters. Mr. Perez doesn’t like the separation of Hispanic households and general-market homes. His logic: People can like Mexican food if they’re not Mexican, so why can’t they like English-language programming for Hispanics regardless of their ethnicity?
Mr. Rose added: “Research after research clearly illustrates that the biggest factor determining whether someone will watch TV in Spanish or English is extremely simple: Where were they born? If they were born in the U.S. or immigrated here as a child and grew up here, chances are they watch mostly English TV. Conversely, if someone was born elsewhere and immigrated here, chances are they will watch Spanish TV. Do you believe that Nielsen, with all its resources, has no idea what percentage of the sample is U.S.-born?”
But for now, Ms. Zel concedes that Nielsen remains the standard. Naturally, every network purchases or commissions additional research to validate its market and spot consumer trends for its target demo.
With a growing number of new and well-capitalized networks and some promising demographic projections, the future looks profitable for Hispanic shows that deliver an audience advertisers want.
“Looking at what’s happening in the TV industry today, I see lots of changes for the better,” Ms. Allen said. “We need programs based on market intelligence [because] with new immigrants and the explosion of second- and third-generation Hispanics, it creates added levels of complexity. For marketers to have success, all the components need to work together. It’s still a relatively new arena and a lot of marketers are still learning how it works. That puts responsibility on partners like agencies and producers to fully understand the marketplace.”