VALDEZ, MUNOZ, GARCIA - Attention, TV viewers with Spanish
surnames. The A. C. Nielsen Company may be looking for you.
While the major networks try to find out where their dwindling
audiences are going, two Spanish-language networks have hired the
national TV ratings service to see how many viewers have come their
way. If the pilot study begun in 200 homes during the summer
proves successful - and early indications are that it will - the
service will go nationwide.
Stakes are high. The two networks, Telemundo and Univision, are
shelling out $40 million for the service in hopes of persuading
advertisers to invest in the $171 billion Hispanic TV market in the
"The history of Hispanic television has been severely hampered by
the problem of measurement," says Emilio Nicholas, general manager
of KMEX-TV here, the nation's largest Spanish-language station.
KMEX-TV pulls in nearly one-tenth of the total $583 million in ad
revenue paid to Spanish-language TV, radio, and print nationwide.
With one-third of L.A. households known to be Hispanic, Mr. Nicholas
thinks his revenue could be 10 times as high, and the national
figure five times as high.
AFTER decades of second-class status as a ragtag collection of
UHF outlets, Spanish-language TV has become one of the
fastest-growing segments of the television industry.
Founded 27 years ago, Univision was the first Spanish-language
service, and it now reaches 5.1 million or 90 percent of the US
Hispanic households. Telemundo, begun three years ago, reaches 75
percent. The two air on about 570 affiliates.
At the better of those affiliates, both quality of programming
and number of viewers have become a force to be reckoned with. The
nightly newscast of KMEX, for instance, has the largest 18- to
34-year-old audience (the prime demographic for advertisers) of any
newscast in Los Angeles, beating NBC, ABC, and CBS.
In line with the rapid growth of Telemundo and Univision, as well
as new census figures, many English-language stations are seizing
the initiative to woo Hispanic viewers in Miami, Houston, and L.A.
Recent developments here include special series on minorities
(KCAL), Spanish simulcasts of news (KCBS), and new beats on ethnic
And if the US Census Bureau has it right, America's Hispanic
community of 22 million will grow 40 percent over the next decade,
in contrast to overall population growth of about eight percent.
That could be an enticement for the 500 largest advertisers on
English-language TV to run ads on Spanish-language TV as well. Over
100 already do: soft drinks (Coke, Pepsi), household goods (Procter
and Gamble), fast-food (Burger King, McDonald's), cars (Ford,
But for now, Spanish-language TV reaches five percent of TV
households in the US but takes in far less than one percent of the
medium's ad revenues. "In all its years, Hispanic TV has never
turned its fair profit," contends Nicholas. "Now, with all its
growth, the income potential is enormous."
Nielsen statistics, beyond verifying numbers of Hispanics who are
watching, bring credibility to Spanish TV, observers say.
"Many of the bigger, general-market advertising agencies won't
touch Spanish-language TV because they are uncomfortable or
untrusting of the audience numbers we give them," says Telemundo's
As in the early days of cable, rich ad agencies looked the other
way until operators pooled their resources for viable audience