Going Where the People Are: TV Outlets Are Increasingly Targeting Hispanic Viewers

Article excerpt

The TV business runs on numbers. So it's really no surprise that networks from ABC to Fox are ramping up their efforts to offer news aimed at Hispanic viewers. The real wonder is that it took so long. For years, Latinos were mostly ignored by the biggest names in broadcast TV, viewed as a niche audience that wasn't worth the effort. That changed when the 2010 census count of Americans of Hispanic descent topped 50 million, one-sixth of the U.S. population. Their median age is a demo-graphically desirable 27, compared with 42 for non-Hispanic whites. And they spend plenty--$1 trillion a year, according to Nielsen Media Research.

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Leading the charge to attract them is MundoFox, featuring entertainment shows and news in Spanish, which launched in August with affiliates in 50 markets, including all of the top 10. The network is aimed at younger, bilingual Hispanics, a group Fox believes is not being served by existing Spanish-language programming. So far, only two of the new MundoFox stations offer local news, but that will change quickly, says Jorge Mettey, senior vice president of news. And when it does, Fox will be up against a behemoth and a well-established runner-up.

The big dog is Univision, whose pedigree dates back 50 years to when the first full-time Spanish-language station in the United States signed on in San Antonio. Today, it's one of the most popular networks in any language. In prime time, Univision often beats one or more of the big four English-language networks among viewers under 49. The No. 2 Spanish-language broadcast network, Telemundo, started about 30 years ago and has an audience about a third as large.

Univision's dominance is most evident in local news. The network's owned-and-operated stations in Los Angeles and New York have the most-watched early and late local news-casts in the country regardless of language in the coveted 18-34 demographic. Univision stations in Houston, Dallas, Phoenix and Sacramento also rank first in late news in their markets.

The key to their success isn't just broadcasting in Spanish. It's "culturally relevant news," according to Univision TV Group President Kevin Cuddihy. That means showcasing stories of particular interest to a Hispanic audience, including immigration, voting rights and news from Latin America.

While MundoFox hopes to poach Spanish-speaking viewers from Univision and Telemundo, ABC News is going after a different audience and partnering with Univision to do it. This fall, the two debuted a joint online news site and plan to launch an English-language cable news channel next year. They've set their sights squarely on U. …