There is a growing demand for high-quality content aimed at Hispanic viewers in the United States but advertisers have yet to tap into Spanish-speaking audiences, a panel of producers and network execs told delegates at Realscreen West’s first session focused on Hispanic programming.
During “Connecting With the U.S. Hispanic Audience,” moderator Campbell McLaren, CEO of Hispanic mixed martial-arts franchise Combate Americas, along with three programming executives and one producer outlined and debated strategies for attracting the United States’ diverse population of more than 50 million Hispanics.
U.S. Hispanics have more than $1 trillion in purchasing power, are a young, upwardly mobile and family-oriented demographic and are expected to comprise more than 30 percent of population by 2050. By 2015, their buying power is expected to reach $1.5 trillion.
Despite these numbers, budgets for homegrown unscripted programs produced by and targeted at American Latinos are a fraction of what general interest cable networks are investing in overall content.
Spanish-language network Univision has out-rated NBC and consistently ranks as a top five network among viewers aged 18 to 49 in the United States. The foreign-produced soap operas and reality formats it airs during primetime through a content and revenue sharing deal with Mexican TV giant Televisa attract upwards of two and three million viewers in key demos. “Univision scares the pants off ABC, NBC and CBS,” McLaren said.
However, the network’s budgets for unscripted programming are roughly 20-to-25 percent of what a general interest network would pay, according to VP of programming and programming operations Sandra Smester. “It’s all in knowing who you’re targeting and what you’re doing,” she told the panel. “You can do a lot of things with little money.”
However, Telemundo’s VP of unscripted content development, Daniel Cubillo, criticized his competitor’s strategy of reeling in American Hispanics with Televisa’s big-budget, Mexican-produced content as short-sighted because it ignores the increasing demand for American adaptions of reality formats, for example, tailored for American audiences.
Instead, his network is taking a more flexible approach by airing bilingual content and shifting its programming strategy toward local adaptations of big franchises. However, he admitted that the network currently has few primetime slots for unscripted programs.
“How do you capture the emotional references for a culture and adapt that to your network?” he said, pointing out that the United States has the only Spanish-speaking market where reality franchises such as Big Brother are not being produced in Spanish. “Our budgets are so small compared to the general market but we know how to handle adaptations on those budgets.”
“We have to work here for here,” he added.
Meanwhile, Lynette Ramirez, VP of programming for English-language Latino channel NuvoTV (formerly Si TV), which recently named pop star mogul Jennifer Lopez as its chief creative officer, laid out the network’s strategy for competing in the general market cable space against networks such as Bravo, Style, E! and WE tv.
“We’re not looking to compete with Univision and Telemundo for those [big ratings] numbers,” she explained, adding that the target demo are second and third generation Hispanics or recent immigrants that watch TV in English. “We are one step away from the general market.”
NuvoTV will aim to air six original unscripted shows per year, with an emphasis on docuseries, in addition to talk shows and comedy programs. Its budgets are in the $130,000 to $200,000 range per half-hour, while the rate for an hour is “negotiable.” The goal is to create Latino-centric content that has mass appeal akin to Lopez and pop star Pitbull’s cross-over success in the music world.
“Our budgets aren’t that much lower than Oxygen’s or WE tv and that’s where they were at two years ago,” said Ramirez. “We’re stepping it up.”
Cubillo added that celebrities that tend to be popular with mainstream U.S. audiences such as Jennifer Lopez are generally not relevant for viewers of Spanish-language programming.
“If there’s one criticism that we’ll get it’s that we’re not Latino enough,” Ramirez added.
Sitting in between the programming execs was Gabriela Cocco-Sanchez, the VP of Keeping Up With The Kardashians producer Bunim/Murray Productions’ recently launched Latin division and the lone producer on the panel. Although her company is willing to work with all Hispanic-centric nets, she insisted that the market must stay focused on the long view of attracting homegrown audiences for the sake of quality – and budgets.
“The next step is Latinos making content for Latinos in the U.S.,” she said. “And there is a quality level that is going to rise.”