Audience growing for Spanish-language TV


The rapid growth of the Hispanic population is a boon for Spanish-language programmers, TV executives said at a national conference in Miami Beach.

No matter how much the Internet and other technological innovations shake up television, rapid growth in the U.S. Hispanic population makes the future a rosy one for Spanish-language TV, a group of industry executives told a television convention on Miami Beach Wednesday.

“If you’re a marketer and you’ve got to grow your market, are you going to focus on the part that’s getting smaller and older? Or the part that’s growing and younger?” said Christy Haubegger, an executive at Hollywood’s powerful Creative Artists Agency, predicting a tide of advertising money will flood into Spanish-language TV in the coming years.

She spoke during a panel discussion of Spanish-language TV on the final day of the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE), where more than 5,000 industry figures from 60 countries gathered to buy and sell programs and chatter about the future.

The Spanish-language TV executives admitted their segment of the industry is not immune from the technological winds buffeting television. But they said solving problems is easier when their potential audience is growing by the day.

“The minority will become a majority by 2050,” said Univision programming boss Alberto Ciurana, citing the predictions of some demographers that Hispanics will make up more than half the U.S. population by then. And, he added, while the average age of viewers of the big English-language broadcast networks runs between 50 and 52, the figure for Univision viewers is 38, squarely inside the sweet spot that advertisers look for.

That was just one of a cascade of statistics cited during the panel that bolstered the importance of the Spanish-language market. The most impressive was its sheer size: U.S. Hispanics would be the 15th biggest television market in the entire world if considered as a country. And, the panelists added, Hispanics are getting wealthier (median income: $40,000 a year) and watching more TV (68 percent say they watch three hours a day or more).

Hispanics now make up so much of the U.S. television audience that they’re forcing marketers to create new demographic labels to describe them, said Harris Whitbeck, head of the Zodiak America Latino production house, including one called “assimilated Hispanics” — or, as Whitbeck explained it, “people who speak English but curse in Spanish.”

That’s a jokey allusion to the fact that growing numbers of U.S. Hispanics are not recent immigrants, but second- and third-generation Americans who are perfectly comfortable in English and cannot be lured to Spanish-language TV on the basis of language alone.

That means industry bosses have to figure out “how we’re going to go from programming in Spanish to programming for Hispanics,” said Haubeggar. “I think we should be agnostic. If a majority of our audience is speaking Farsi, that’s where we go.”

It also means that Spanish-language shows will have to be better, which means their budgets will have to be bigger, said Jacqueline Hernandez, Telemundo Media’s chief operating officer. “As we grow, so will our appetites, and we’ll have the opportunity to do better more creative things.”

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