Tuesday, March 14, 2006

¿Tu hablas español?

Spanish language television has been an offering by most cable and satellite providers for sometime. The networks are best known for their wacky game shows and sultry Spanish soap operas, or telenovelas. These shows have even been known to stop even the non-Spanish speaking channel surfer. It is this programming formula that has driven the Univision to prominence, but as the reigning number one Spanish-language network is preparing to be sold its new owner might have to revaluate the network's offerings to meet the needs of a changing audience.

With an audience of over 40 million, Univision has become a giant among the Spanish networks. Its shows account for all ten of the top ten Spanish-language shows. Ratings wise in some markets with large Latino populations, Univision has begun to beat some of the large broadcast networks. Though Univision has based its successes on such a large and faithful audience, the network's future owner will have to deal with the shifting demographic make up of the Hispanic population.

The Hispanic population is consistently growing. It is projected that by 2010 that the percentage of Hispanics born in the U.S. is likely to exceed 75 percent. This means as the composition of the Hispanic population shifts so are the demographics. American-born Hispanics tend to primarily speak English as opposed to Spanish, be better educated and have higher incomes. For Univision these demographic changes pose a bigger problem as the larger networks could potentially begin to poach their audience. Yet, Univision is sticking to the formula it knows best. The network has remained exclusively Spanish and still buys most of its programming from Mexico.

With the shifting landscape of Spanish-language TV's audience, the sale of Univision is refreshing to marketers trying to target the Hispanic population. Marketers view Univision as a lumbering giant, whose resistance to change is shutting them off to reach those who fit within this changing demographic. As marketers try to reach bilingual Hispanics, the potential for Univision to change and the emergence of other Hispanic-targeted networks will provide such outlets

But in the pursuit of trying to reach these shifting demographics, whether it be through programming or advertising, it must not forget that as whole the Hispanic population is diverse. Therefore, it is more about preserving the culture and not what language the programming is broadcast. According to Cynthia Hudson-Fernandez, executive vice president and chief creative officer of Spanish Broadcasting System, "These are a new generation of people who have a very broad perspective," she said. "They don't have to prove that they're one thing or another to be comfortable as Americans. If it's quality programming, they don't care if it's English or Spanish."

Changing U.S. Audience Poses Test for a Giant of Spanish TV


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