New York — With the focus of most programmers on the myriad over-the-top methods to attract younger viewers, Spanish-language networks are increasingly depending on old-fashioned linear channels for survival, according to a panel at the Hispanic TV Summit.
"Even though they say that linear TV is dead, we're still negotiating with linear channels," said THEMA America CEO Patrick Rivet at a session titled "New Directions for Delivering Content to Hispanics" at the event, which is presented by Multichannel News and Broadcasting & Cable.
That is especially true for Hispanic networks, said Atresmedia International managing director Javier Nuche. He added that the added resources needed to launch SVOD and AVOD versions of their channels makes it more difficult for Hispanic networks to break into the OTT model.
"It's a financial problem, too," said Condista partner Berke Berendes. "To go direct, you have manpower issues, and that adds an extra few layers of complication that is not the same part of the workflow. Linear is still the core business."
Univision senior VP content distribution Friday Abernethy said programming negotiations have vastly increased in difficulty over the past decade, from simple set-top-centric talks to lengthy discussions over how content will travel over different platforms.
"You're not only worrying about the economics of the deal, but about how content moves from platform to platform," Abernethy said. That includes "future proofing" deals that are nimble enough to allow flexibility for both consumer and distributor, "but not so open so you don't have control."
Abernethy, too, believed that the rumors of linear TV's demise are premature, especially with Hispanic channels.
"There is something still exciting about the linear experience, something about going to the TV and anticipating that next episode," she said. But there is a way for both linear and on demand options to work together. "It comes down to windowing, the time frame when there is a long enough rest for that content to go to another platform."
Some SVOD providers are beginning to pay attention to Spanish language content, especially Netflix, which has had some recent hits with the genre, including "Money Heist" and "Velvet."
"Netflix does very well, they serve Spanish language content next to English-language content," Abernethy said. "That is going to propel usage for Spanish-language content."
She added that multi-generational Hispanic households want to watch Breaking Bad and ESPN in addition to Spanish-language programming. "To ask our community to pay a tariff to get content they want in-language and in-culture doesn't seem like [the] right thing to do," Abernethy said.
Berendes said he didn't have a problem with a tariff — the creation of Spanish-language programming tiers allows distributors to make content available that otherwise wouldn't. Abernethy added while she understood the economic reason for ethnic tiers, she said today's Hispanic household is different from just a few years ago.
"I think our country is evolving," Abernethy said. "We're not just speaking Spanish or English, we're vacillating between both. If you have to go somewhere else to get Spanish-language content, you're going to be underserved."