Upfront Navigator: UNIVISION: Solidifying Its Place as the New Fifth Broadcast Net

May 15, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Now that Univision’s audiences are being measured alongside English-language rivals, the leading U.S. Spanish-language network is proving that it’s a ratings performer on par with The WB and UPN.

The big question is what happens next season, with the launch of The CW, which combines much of UPN and The WB’s current programming, and the debut of MyNetworkTV, which will be the first network to offer Univision English-language competition in the telenovela market.

Advertisers and ad sales executives have been taking a growing interest in Spanish-language broadcasting for the past few years, and Univision’s placement on Nielsen Media Research’s National Television Index allows direct comparisons with English-language networks.

“In terms of how [Univision and rival network Telemundo] are doing, it’s huge,” said Shari Ann Brill, VP and director of programming for Carat USA, quoting Nielsen Media Research ratings for the week ended May 7. “This past week Univision had a 1.5 rating among adults 18 to 49, defeating The WB and UPN. That’s big stuff. It effectively makes them the fifth network.”

Univision has long been the dominant player within the Spanish-language market in the U.S., thanks to its network of stations and its ability to exclusively secure programming from Mexico City-based production powerhouse Televisa, which owns an 11 percent stake in the network.

The Televisa relationship gives Univision access to some of Latin America’s most popular prime-time soap operas, or telenovelas, as well as hit reality programming franchises such as “Bailando Por Un Sue%F1;o” (“Dancing For a Dream”), a “Dancing With the Stars”-like competition that wrapped up its third cycle on Univision May 7.

The network has also had success with its telecast of the Latin Grammys, which transferred over from the general market networks last year.

Soon after Univision transferred to the new Nielsen audience measurement index in December, The WB released a statement warning the industry against drawing any conclusions from the initial ratings data.

“As is the case with radio, foreign-language networks by nature target a very different audience and tend to do very well with their core audiences,” The WB said in the release.

Even though the audiences are different, ad sales executives like Ms. Brill are paying attention to what Univision and other Spanish-language networks have to offer.

“Now that they are being measured, I’ll look a lot more closely,” she said.