Latest census report spurs new programming scheme

The numbers are too big to ignore.

Fox, NBCUniversal and Comcast are moving aggressively in the domestic Hispanic TV arena with big plans for English- and Spanish-lingo programming, on the heels of the latest U.S. Census report documenting the extraordinary growth of the U.S. Hispanic population.

According to the latest figures, the number of people of Hispanic descent soared 43% during the past decade to surpass 50 million — a surge that accounted for more than half of the overall population growth during the decade.

Fox has created a standalone division in its cable networks group, Fox Hispanic Media, to house its domestic Spanish-lingo cablers, including a National Geographic-branded channel, Nat Geo Mundo, set to bow in July.

A day after Fox announced its move, NBCUniversal cable maven Lauren Zalaznick unveiled the Hispanics@NBCU marketing initiative, which aims to up the profile of the Peacock’s Spanish-lingo nets, broadcaster Tele-mundo and cabler Mun 2. And NBCU parent Comcast is committed to launching channels predominantly owned or managed by Hispanics and African-Americans by 2013 as part of the conditions the cable giant agreed to with the feds in securing approval for its NBCU takeover.

TV bizzers have long eyed ethnic niche markets as a prime growth opportunity, especially as the country becomes more multicultural and the viewing landscape more fragmented. But the eye-popping population stats yielded by the 2010 Census have added urgency to the majors’ initiatives.

In the Hispanic realm, execs see a huge opportunity to court younger viewers who are growing up bilingual and bicultural in their consumption of media and pop culture.

“We felt there is an opportunity to target a group that is not only increasing in numbers but also shifting culturally,” says Hernan Lopez, prexy and CEO of Fox Intl. Channels, who is spearheading the Fox Hispanic Media unit.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more