Hispanic TV focuses on relevance

Analysts discuss growing market at confab

MIAMI — Relevance was the buzz word at the third annual Hispanic Television Summit, held in Miami Oct. 18-19.

But relevant programming doesn’t automatically mean Spanish-language when it comes to targeting U.S. Hispanics, a number of participants emphasized at the conference organized by the Reed Television Group.

“There are 41 million U.S. Hispanics, of which 25 million are U.S. born, and only 20% of Univision and Telemundo’s audiences” comes from that group, said Robert Rose, CEO of Aim Tell-A-Vision, which produces English-language shows for Stateside syndication.

“There’s not one formula that is going to work,” said Luis Silberwasser, senior veep-general manager of U.S. Hispanic networks at Discovery Communications, which is launching two more Spanish-language channels into the U.S. market. “We know audiences around the world want to see different things — not just soap operas and soccer. We need to be conscious that Hispanic audiences want more.”

For now, Univision and Telemundo dominate — not unlike the situation in the general market some 15 years ago, observed media analyst Leland Westerfield of Harris Nesbitt, who believes the U.S. Hispanic pay TV market is on the cusp of a growth spurt.

Westerfield foresees “a deeper penetration in cable tiers over the next two to four years,” with ad sales expanding from a negligible amount today.

Although pay TV penetration is 54%, not many Hispanics are subscribing to the Spanish tiers. Spanish-tier subs represent only 1.5%-2% of MSOs’ subscriber base, estimates Lino Garcia, general manager of ESPN Deportes.

Local Spanish-language broadcast stations are scooping up ad business that Spanish-language cable networks can’t tackle because they lack critical mass, he said. In marked contrast, “in the general market, broadcast stations are heavily competed against by cable.”

Dedicated marketing to U.S. Hispanics makes a difference in building the subscriber base, said Leslie Villem, Hispanic marketing manager for Comcast’s Northern California region.

“In the first year of having a separate budget, we had an increase of 112% in subscriber growth,” she said.

On a panel devoted to new technologies, Hispanic pay TV programmers said that given low penetration and market demands, they are reaching beyond traditional distribution platforms — but they maintained that they will complement, not replace, pipes or dishes.

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