Hispanic TV Summit: Distributors Differ On Local Vs. International Content

Some panelists say importing international is wise investment, others tout U.S. programming

Distributors and programmers looking to make an impact in the Hispanic marketplace have to hedge their bets on what sorts of programming will perform best for them. At a panel discussion at the B&C/Multichannel News Hispanic Television Summit Sept 24, moderated by Joe Schramm, the managing partner of the Schramm Marketing Group, panelists discussed whether locally-produced programming or international acquisitions are the way to reach the fast growing Hispanic demographics.

Winter Horton, corporate V.P. at Liberman Broadcasting, noted that his company produces original Spanish-language content created specifically for U.S. audiences out of its Burbank studios.

"I think when Hispanics come to the United States they are exposed to some really phenomenal television on the big networks," Horton said. "You can clearly see that these shows have quite a big Hispanic audience; they are watching these big productions."

In response, the shows Liberman produce are a different breed than the international imports, dealing with topics that shows produced in Venezuela or Mexico may not.
Chris Fager, the president of TuTv, argued that importing international channels and programming are a wise investment for distributors, and are a much better way of reaching the Hispanic audience.

"We take it for granted that Hollywood entertains the whole world and they do, but [Mexican media conglomerate] Televisa has been entertaining Latin America for 30 years," Fager said. "What we have is authenticity, this is a big thing for people. They grew up with these channels."

Jorge Fittere, a partner at Condista, which imports Spanish-language programming, took the middle ground in the matter.

"I do agree that there is a market for Hispanic domestic programming, but at the same time as costs rise, it makes sense to get programming from across borders."

Of course, programming is just one of the challenges to successfully break into the Hispanic marketplace.

Univision and Telemundo still dominate the market thoroughly, which means that smaller channels are looking to chip away at their lead over time, but not overtake them.

On demand is another problem area, as many distributors decide where to focus their VOD efforts.

"The data on Spanish language VOD is limited, because the amount of content is limited," says Matt Cohen, senior V.P. of content services for Avail-TVN.

In other words, distributors put much of their VOD bandwidth towards programming that they know will draw viewers, not necessarily programming that has the potential tor each a growing demographic.

"We have to fight our way onto the servers because there is not enough bandwidth for the Latino content," Fager says.