Digital Media and Hispanics: The Stars of Upfront Season

Earlier this month New York City hosted the large television networks’ Upfronts.  These events, which are customarily held during the end of sweeps period, are important advertising sales events held by television network executives, introducing their primetime schedules and new programming to the press and advertisers.  Upfronts have grown over the years to become big productions themselves, with musical numbers, attendance by stars, taking place in grandiose venues such as Radio City Music Hall and Lincoln Center.

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Thanks to new technology and innovation, Upfronts have taken on a new feel and focus in the digital age.  Networks are no longer limited to introducing new series and the upcoming lineups, but also have the chance to highlight multiscreen initiatives and audience reach across platforms.  Advertisers want data from more than television views; they also are interested in the digital reach each network has achieved.  This year “tweets” and “likes” seemed to be just as important as traditional viewers, highlighting the importance of new platforms and innovation.  ABC announced that it will now be available for live stream on tablets and mobile devices via the Watch ABC app.  The network is the first to launch live stream via mobile, and it will participate in Nielsen’s first attempt to incorporate mobile video apps into the firm’s measurement metrics.

The importance of the US Hispanic market is not news. (In February, Univision topped NBC yet again to be the 4thmost watched channel in the United States.)  But this year, Hispanic networks’ prominence was front and center.  In a bold move, both Univision and Telemundo took aim at the big networks, while gaining the attention of advertisers.  In 2012, Telemundo added over 100 advertising clients to its roster, and that is just a glimpse into the shifting resources and advertising toward the US Hispanic market.  According to AdvertisingAge, in 2011 alone there was a 4.6% increase in Hispanic major media ad spending.  That is expected to be even higher for 2012.

Data presented at the upfronts showed the increasing strength and value of marketing to Latinos, thanks in part to changing demographics, increased purchasing power, and expansive online and mobile reach.  Of course, it’s an added bonus that Hispanics are known to watch shows in real-time more than their Caucasian counterparts, increasing the return on advertising.

Univision’s recent surge to the number four spot wasn’t its only big news. The network also announced a new strategic Alliance with Director Robert Rodriguez and his cable channel “El Rey.”  While full details of the alliance were not announced, it was yet another step by Univision to target the increasingly prevalent English language-dominant Hispanics.  Rodriguez was quoted as saying that El Rey’s focus is to create “cutting-edge, high-quality, expensive programming for young adults, competing with all the English-language networks.”  One of the first shows on its docket will be a series based on Rodriguez’ movie “From Dusk Til Dawn.”

The joint venture with Rodriguez is Univision’s second big endeavor in the English-based US Hispanic market.  The first was announced last fall, when Univision joined forces with ABC News to create its new network Fusion, which is likely to begin airing towards the end of this year.  When targeting advertisers, Univision used the slogan “One for All,” implying that advertisers that work with the company will not be limited to one platform, but will have access to advertising space across broadcast television, cable, and online (U-Videos.)

Telemundo, the fastest growing broadcast network in the 18-49 demographic, announced a new venture with Ryan Secrest Productions to produce “Yo Me Llamo” or “Superstar Showdown”, and another venture with the Miss Universe Organization to produce a new reality show called “Miss Latina USA,” whose winner will have its own slot in the Miss USA contest.

Discovery U.S. Hispanic, a division of Discovery Communications that operates two cable channels for Spanish-speaking viewers, Discovery en Español and Discovery Familia, also came out strong during its upfront.  Discovery en Español, whose ratings were up close to 20% last year, will add a variety of shows, including increased coverage of soccer and a show called “El duo Mecánico” aimed at car lovers.

Telenovelas, the format most highly associated with Latino television, are not going anywhere.  But as Hispanic networks, both English and Spanish-language based, continue to gain ground in viewership, new formats, and increased cross-platform presence, advertising dollars are sure to continue the upward swing.