Primetime faves fail to translate en Espanol

SAP addition won't draw viewers, says Univision

Now that “Desperate Housewives,” “Lost” and other ABC primetime programs are available in either dubbed or subtitled Spanish, will the Alphabet web grab viewers from U.S. Hispanic giant Univision?

Not a chance. At least that’s what Univision contends.

“Based on all of the data we’ve analyzed, we have no reason to believe that ABC’s addition of SAP (Second Audio Program) to its current primetime lineup will have any impact on our increasing audience levels, which are a result of offering the best in-culture, in-language programming,” says a Univision rep.

In other words, if you pit “Desperate Housewives” on SAP against telenovela “La madrastra,” the latter wins hands down.

“La madrastra” no longer airs, but Univision considers it one of the net’s biggest hits. In Los Angeles, Univision’s flagship station KMEX reports that different episodes of “La madrastra” ranked Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 9 among adults 18-49 on primetime last summer.

So far, the English versions of “Wives” is No. 4, Fox’s “The Simpsons” is No. 13 and “Lost” is No. 17 among Hispanic adults 18-49.

Univision also points out that while auds for the Spanish-language nets have grown each year, the major English-language nets have seen their viewership erode among both Hispanic and non-Hispanics.

And it’s not just a matter of casting Hispanics in a skein. According to Nielsen Media Research stats compiled by the Spanish-language net, viewership of ABC’s sitcom “George Lopez,” despite its Hispanic cast and its availability in dubbed Spanish since its debut in 2001, has actually declined more among Latinos than non-Hispanics.

“This is new territory to us, so we have a learning curve to undergo,” ABC Entertainment prexy Stephen McPherson admits.

“The ratings decline of ‘George Lopez’ had more to do with the fact that it was moved to a Friday, a difficult timeslot,” says Mike Benson, senior VP, marketing, ABC Entertainment. Show’s new season switched back to a viewer-friendly Wednesday last week.

NBC-owned Spanish-language Telemundo, a distant second to Univision, is also skeptical about ABC’s move.

“It’s not about the language, it’s about the relevance of the programming,” says Telemundo spokesman Alfredo Richard.

He points to the experience of some cable nets, which saw their efforts to provide Spanish-language versions of their original programming make little impact on viewership. They have focused on original production to better results. Discovery Networks Latin America this year has boosted local production by 30% over 2004.

Other broadcasters are keeping a close eye on ABC’s Spanish-language initiative. Fox Entertainment, which has already been offering “The Simpsons” with SAP, held its first Hispanic Summit Oct. 5 with the heads of all its business units in Los Angeles.

“We’re trying to build a strategy on how to better reach the U.S. Hispanic audience,” says Mitsy Wilson, senior VP of Diversity Development, Fox Entertainment Group.

“It’s become so competitive, not just with the broadcast networks but with Hispanic nets, too,” Benson says. To wit, Univision TV and Radio have refused ABC ads touting its primetime lineup via SAP.

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