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Slower Upfront For Hispanic TV

Spanish-language nets fight recession pressures 4/25/2009 02:00:00 AM Eastern



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After significant growth in recent years, the Hispanic television upfront marketplace is expected to end up flat or even down from last year, say industry observers.

Back in 2001, Univision was reported to have taken in some $501 million, and by 2003 the Hispanic TV market upfront was pegged at almost $1 billion. In 2006, the market had grown to some $1.3 billion and was reported to have risen a further 7% by 2007. The sector took in an estimated $1.5 billion to $2 billion during last year's spring advertising ritual.

And TNS Media Intelligence reports that in 2008, the total Spanish-language TV marketplace grew slightly from $3.4 billion to $3.6 billion, even with the late-year slowdown. But that sector is not protected from the recession-induced challenges facing the overall industry.

“The Hispanic consumers are facing the same challenges as everybody,” says Rick Marroquin, executive VP of MediaBrands, part of Interpublic Group. “They're at a point where they're facing the same pressures and seeing the general market come down; we expect the Hispanic market will be in line with that.”

Through the first three quarters of 2008, advertising on Spanish-language broadcast grew by 0.7% while Spanish-language cable grew by 49%, though the latter figure is largely a result of Nielsen adding new channels to its monitoring service. But the recession is likely to slow that momentum for major players.

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This year, with the biggest category of advertiser—autos—hobbled, things won't be as easy. Auto spending in the Hispanic market was down 10% through the first three quarters of last year, according to Nielsen.

“My prediction is for slightly down for the year,” says Marroquin, a former Hispanic marketing director at McDonald's. “But it will be less down than the general market.”

The two biggest Hispanic broadcasters are still delivering their sales pitch to agencies, having replaced big-tent presentations with more intimate road shows. Univision has the Spanish-language rights to the 2010 World Cup, which brings with it big-name sponsorship partners such as McDonald's. But buyers are doing some scoreboard-watching of their own to see if the struggling Mexican national team qualifies, as its exclusion could bring down ratings.

And Telemundo is touting a major point of differentiation with its longtime competitor Univision: Telemundo owns the rights to its shows and is aggressively promoting its ability to deliver sought-after cross-platform deals. A deal to bring Telemundo content to sibling online video company Hulu (owned by NBC Universal, News Corp. and, reportedly soon, ABC) is also being discussed. Univision, meanwhile, is still haggling over digital rights to shows it buys from Grupo Televisa, though it also maintains a robust Website.

But some see this year's challenges as only temporary for a recently booming marketplace. “Spanish-language TV gets 4% of the money; we're entitled to 14% if you look at population. The census, coming in 2010, bodes well for the Spanish-language market,” says Michael Rodriguez, senior VP of sales and marketing for Telemundo. “I'm looking for a flat year, but with our ratings growth the money is going to grow.”



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