Azteca reaches rating mecca

B'caster cracks top 25 primetime ratings list of Hispanic nets in U.S.

MEXICO CITY — Since it first hit U.S. airwaves in 2001, Azteca America has been the Eddie the Eagle of Spanish-language broadcasting: hard-working, fun to watch, but always in last place.

All of a sudden, though, the TV Azteca-owned net, which reaches 39 markets on mostly UHF and cable signals, has begun looking like the little web that could.

In the past three weeks, Azteca America has for the first time cracked the top 25 primetime ratings list of Hispanic networks in the U.S.

And it’s done it five times now, including a 13th place finish May 29 for its exclusive coverage of the Mexican pro soccer league final, which landed it a 7.2 rating, or 1.3 million viewers, its best numbers ever.

That same night, reality skein “La Academia” broke into the top 25 as well, Azteca America’s first non-sports event to do so.

While Azteca brass is jubilant, execs at market kings Univision, Telemundo and Telefutura might be scratching their heads and wondering how this little upstart could threaten the established hegemony.

Well, at least execs at Telemundo and Telefutura.

Univision continues to hold a vice grip on the top dozen ratings spots, enjoying a position as dominant in the U.S. market as its content provider, Televisa, is in Mexico. And much like in Mexico, where TV Azteca has been making surprising gains on some ratings fronts of late, Azteca America is surpassing expectations.

“We are here as a member of the national network club and climbing — with or without an invitation,” says Azteca America chief operating officer Jorge Jaidar.

The tiny net still has a long way to go, though. The big three of Spanish-language U.S. broadcasting have more money, much deeper penetration, stronger signals and a deeper slate of programming.

For the moment, though, the little web that could is enjoying its nights in the Nielsen spotlight.

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