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Azteca America Expands Programming Slate as Ratings Improve

Azteca America, the U.S. arm of Mexican giant TV Azteca, is revving up efforts to become a stronger Spanish-language competitor to Univision and Telemundo with an expanded slate of programming.

Azteca America has been inching up in market share against its larger competitors thanks to strategic changes spearheaded by president-CEO Manuel Abud, who was president of Telemundo’s station group before joining Azteca America in 2014. Azteca America will expand on its strategy today at its upfront presentation at Manhattan’s Gramercy Park Hotel.

The cornerstone of Azteca America is its weekend broadcasts of Mexican soccer matches. “We’ve built on that audience but most importantly, we brought some stability to our programming grid over the past 12 to 14 months,” said Abud.

By eschewing telenovelas and creating appointment viewing programming blocks — 7-8 p.m. is allotted for family game shows; 9-10 p.m. is dedicated to reality shows; and 10-11 p.m. is reserved for acquired dramas — Azteca has gained traction and is drawing more millennial viewers, although its audience is still tiny compared to its larger competitors. The network launched in 2001 with a single station in Los Angeles. At present it has about 3% of market share of the U.S. Spanish-language audience, according to Azteca America.

Shortly after taking over Azteca America, Abud reorganized the network by revamping its executive team, creating a new centralized Azteca Station group, introducing stronger programming and bolstering the company’s network and digital sales divisions. These changes have spurred the network to reach over 21 million total viewers for the 2014-2015 season. “We’re always seeking better ways to engage our audience,” said Abud who added that they are producing and acquiring webisodes for the digital space.

Driving a double-digit surge in viewership in 2015 were dance competition “Baila Si Puedes,” game show “Todo O Nada,” news magazine “Al Extremo” (+59%) and soccer program “Friday Night Futbol.”

Azteca’s 2016-17 slate includes game show “Ahora Caigo” (from GestMusic Endemol), a crossword-inspired game where a single contestant competes against 10 other individuals; adventure reality program “Desafio” (Colombia’s Caracol TV), where contestants are pitted against each other while battling the elements in such exotic places as Morocco or India; and drama series “Rabia” (Spain’s Islas Audiovisual), an action thriller shot in Madrid and Malaga that tracks a group of people who underwent experimental gene therapy and are now afflicted with rabies.

(Pictured: “Ahora Caigo”)

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