TV business works to cater to increasingly powerful segment

The influence Hispanic voters exerted at the ballot box on Tuesday reflects the seismic demographic shifts that are driving the biz’s major congloms to invest in Latino-targeted media.

Given the projected growth of the Latino population over the next decade, NBCUniversal sees big upside in beefing up the programming and operations of Telemundo and cabler Mun2. Viacom is doing the same with its MTV Tres cabler.

Last year, News Corp. decided to pounce on the growing market opportunity with the launch of a Spanish-lingo broadcast net in partnership with Columbia’s RCN Television Group. MundoFox, which bowed in August, was assembled in barely eight months, a feat reflecting the appetite among station owners and advertisers to reach Latino auds. Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine America unit is among MundoFox’s key suppliers of primetime programs aimed at what the network calls the “bicultural” demo.

Earlier this year, ABC News initiated a wide-ranging news partnership with Univision that aims to launch an English-lingo news outlet targeting the Hispanic demo, with cable and digital components, next year. Jennifer Lopez recently became an investor in the indie cabler NuvoTV, a pioneer in targeting the second-generation Hispanic demo with English-lingo programming.

On the feature side, the focus on courting Latino auds is growing, spurred by MPAA stats indicating that Hispanics tend to be more frequent moviegoers than the general population. Paramount, for one, is developing a Latino-themed spinoff of its “Paranormal Activity” franchise.

All the activity in media and showbiz has heightened the focus on the expanding ranks of the U.S. Latino population, underscored by the eye-popping statistics in the 2010 U.S. Census report. Latinos are the fastest-growing demo group in the nation, accounting for more than half of the U.S. population growth between 2000 and 2010. At 50.5 million as of 2010, Hispanics account for 16% of the national population, and 23% of those under 18, and the population is expected to double by 2050. It’s no surprise these numbers grabbed the attention of media execs and political pollsters alike. During the 2012 campaign, there were more platforms for candidates to target messages to Latino voters than ever before.

The early exit polling data indicates that Hispanics made up about 10% of Tuesday’s electorate, up from 9% in 2008, according to a report issued Wednesday by Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. In the key battleground state of Florida, Hispanic voters grew to 17% of the electorate from 14% in 2008, and those voters made the difference for President Obama. Overall, Obama captured 71% of the nation’s Hispanic vote, up from 67% in 2008.

“This is the new reality of America,” said Janet Murguia, prexy of advocacy org National Council of La Raza. “It’s the new normal to see a much more diverse America. Any sector, particularly TV and media, has to keep up with that if they’re going to be relevant and successful.”

Most significantly, mainstream media outlets are demonstrating an understanding of the changes within the Hispanic demographic, notably the growth of the second- and third-generation U.S.-born sector, according to Mark Hugo Lopez, associate director of Pew Hispanic Research. He cited MundoFox as a prime example of this understanding, with its on-air slogan “Latino Entertainment, American Attitude.”

“You’ve got a big group that was born here that we think of as living between two worlds,” Lopez said. “One of the things we’re paying close attention to is where this group gets its news and entertainment, and in what language it gets its news and entertainment. This is a big change that everyone is hoping to better understand.”

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