Do Hispanics crave more English-language TV? Depends who you ask. Cable nets Mun2 and Sí TV say acculturated U.S. Hispanics want more English-language fare. ¡No bueno!, counters Hispanic powerhouse Univision, pointing to soaring ratings.
The company, which commands the lion's share of the market—owning Spanish-language broadcasters Univision and Telefutura and cable net Galavision—says most Hispanics speak Spanish at home. And they want to keep it that way. Bigger news: Spanish-language TV is más popular than general-market fare.
How do we know? Univision teamed with Nielsen Media Research to study Hispanics' TV-viewing habits. The results—no surprise here—were rosy for Univision. There are 39 million Hispanics in the U.S., and, while 75% watch TV in both English and Spanish, more than two-thirds prefer shows in their mother tongue. (The Nielsen research backed up a qualitative study Univision had commissioned from Mad Logic.)
In the 2002-03 TV season, the top 72 rated shows in Hispanic homes were Spanish-language. Especially popular are the Univision novelas, which rank in the top 10. The first English-language title to pop up on the radar: Fox mega-hit Joe Millionaire at No. 73. "Ten years ago, there was the sense that Spanish-language would fade with acculturation and assimilation," says Tom McGarrity, co-president of Univision sales. "It's not the case."
Instead, Univision's ratings are meteoric, up 107% among Hispanic adults 18-49 in prime time since 1992. "That's a chart our English-language brethren would like," McGarrity adds. It's a success story Univision is trumpeting at the upfront. The new strategy isn't to fight NBC-owned Telemundo for dollars, but to lure general advertisers to its airwaves. Why? It's a numbers game: To date, Univision says its nets command a 79 share of Hispanics 18-49 in prime, versus a 21 share for Telemundo.
Univision plans to educate advertisers that believe reaching Hispanics on general-market TV is enough. The pitch is simple: Hispanic interests, tastes, and language are distinct and deserve their own advertising. "We don't do English-language television in Spanish," says Ron Furman, a former ABC sales exec, now Univision's executive vice president of sales. "Advertisers who are smart recognize the same challenge."
To pump up its ad count, Univision is targeting pharmaceutical, auto, retail, beverages, and movies as growth areas. The company now has about 130 advertisers. Another goal: persuade existing sponsors to showcase more brands. "Once a category falls or a top player jumps in," sales co-prez Dennis McCauley, "it's a lot easier to sell our story to competitors."