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Hispanic-Network Upfront Likely to Surge

5/22/2005 8:00 PM Eastern

This story was reported by Mike Reynolds, Linda Moss and R. Thomas Umstead and written by Reynolds.

While broadcasters took center stage with their upfront presentations last week, companies targeting Hispanics were also at work trying to convince media buyers that their networks were the vehicles to reach this burgeoning community.

Last year, Spanish-language television grabbed an estimated $1.2 billion during the upfront, as part of a market that TNS Media Inc. placed at some $2.7 billion overall.

Population gains aside, the current TV season has been a strong one for the sector.

'INCREDIBLY HEALTHY’

“The Spanish-language television industry is incredibly healthy from almost any perspective,” said Steve Mandala, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Telemundo and NBC Universal Networks during a press preview of its upfront.

“The thing that drives our health is viewing to Spanish-language television is up,” he said. “This year, a full 7.1% of all adults 18 to 49 in the total U.S. are actually watching Spanish-language television in primetime. That’s up 11% versus prior year, and remarkably, it’s 10% of all young adults 18 to 34 watching television in primetime are watching Spanish-language television.”

Some observers anticipate the upfront could jump between 10% and 20% for the 2005-06 TV season.

“We project robust growth (10 to 15%) in the Spanish-language upfront, which usually finishes over the summer, led by increased ratings at Univision and the continued migration of advertisers to Spanish-language television,” wrote Jessica Reif Cohen, first vice president at Merrill Lynch, in a research note. “Univision’s strong ratings should drive higher share than a year ago, although stronger ratings also mean advertisers can buy less inventory to get the same eyeballs. Telemundo should face a difficult market given its weak audience delivery this year.”

Reif Cohen estimates that Univision will score a 15% upfront increase to some $930 million, while Telemundo’s take will grow 7% to around $320 million.

In addition to Univision and Telemundo, broadcaster Azteca America made its presentation last week, as did cable services Fox Sports en Español, ESPN Deportes and Gol TV. The following are scorecards, highlighting key points five of the media companies tried to convey to buyers last week:

NUMBERS GAME

Tom Maney, senior vice president of advertising sales at Fox Sports en Español, told buyers about the network’s strong ratings and distribution gains.

Fox Sports en Español, which added 20 clients over the past year to lift its advertiser base to 80, currently counts some 3.25 million Spanish-language households. Some 400,000 households were added in 2004, with significant increases coming in New York (31%), Miami/Ft. Lauderdale (13%), Houston (41%). Dallas (79%), San Antonio (114%) and Phoenix (261%). The service expects to hit targets of 3.5 million in the fourth quarter and some 4 million by next year’s upfront presentation, according to Haney.

The network also claimed that that it was No. 1 among all Spanish-language networks in terms of overall male audience composition, including males 18 to 34 and 18 to 49.

Relative to delivery of sports programming, network officials said the channel had 11 of the top 20 shows in 2004, eight of the top 20 among men 18 to 49, and seven of 20 among the younger male demo. Those Nielsen accomplishments were made, Haney said, despite Fox Sports en Español’s having far less penetration than other networks reaching into the sector, like Univision and Telemundo.

On the programming front, Haney said the network would offer 5,000 programming hours in the upcoming TV season, 1,500 of which are live, including 500 from the soccer pitch.

In addition to being the exclusive home to four club competitions next year, including Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana, Fox Sports en Español will ramp up its World Cup coverage with series of thematic specials: nine Road to the World Cup half-hour bracket analysis shows; nine one-hour Los Tecnicos del Mundial shows presenting interviews and analysis from World Cup coaches; and a dozen one-hour programs featuring current and former World Cup players.

Haney said the network, which will also present five documentaries from the 1978 through 1998 World Cups, with sponsorship opportunities a la TBS’s “Dinner & a Movie,” will have three crews on the ground in Germany and a studio in Munich for the upcoming quadrennial competition.

Haney also talked up the network’s coverage of Major League Baseball’s All-Star game and postseason at the presentation.

GOL TV’S FIRST OUTING

During its first upfront, all-soccer Gol TV said it will present some 1,500 matches in 2005-06, half of which are live. The network is also working toward acquiring or producing instructional programming to appeal to the youth community.

Sporting action from top futbol leagues, notably Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A, as well as matches from South American circuits, Gol TV executives said the bilingual network is on target to be in 10 million homes by year’s end. Boosting its distribution goals are deals with Comcast Corp., Adelphia Communications Corp., as well as recent pacts with Charter Communications Inc., Cablevision Systems Corp. and Bresnan Communications.

These MSOs are positioning the network, which also offers a host of fresh shoulder programming like 45/45, FIFA’s Futbol Mundial and Super Estadio, a daily show tracking action in Mexico, on both Hispanic and sports tiers.

Gol TV director of business development Constantino Voulgaris told Multichannel News the network is looking to buy some clinic-type programming featuring English national team and Real Madrid star David Beckham.

The network, which counts Volkswagen, Adidas, Toyota, AT&T and Visa among its advertisers, is also in negotiations with an international programmer about securing an instructional show, encompassing 13 installments. Voulgaris said Gol TV would provide the wraps for the program, which it hopes to have on the air late in 2005.

Gol TV executive vice president of marketing, sales and communications Eileen Montalvo said the network is very open to working with advertisers on integrated packages. She pointed to deals that The Coca-Cola Co. has in play in which the beverage giant sponsors Vive El Savor Del Gol, a goal highlights show, and has its brand attached to a highlights package surrounding its sponsorship of U.S. youth soccer tournament Copa Coca-Cola.

PINNING NEW VIEWERS

In a surprise move Mun2, NBC Universal’s Spanish-language cable network, announced that it would begin airing World Wrestling Entertainment’s Raw franchise this fall.

Executives disclosed that youth-targeted Mun2, along with sister service USA Network, had acquired rights to Raw. Mun2, Telemundo and USA are all owned by NBC Universal.

When news broke in April that USA had regained the WWE in a three-year deal, the pact reportedly called for Telemundo to air a two-hour WWE wrestling show on weekends. So last week’s announcement that the small cable service would air Raw in Spanish caught many off-guard. And Mun2 officials wouldn’t elaborate very much.

AUDIENCE LIKES WRESTLING

“Mun2 is uniquely positioned — strengthened by two entertainment powerhouses, English-language, NBC Universal on one side and Spanish language Telemundo on the other,” Antoinette Zel, executive vice president of network planning strategy at Telemundo, said in a statement. “We are able to benefit from these relationships to provide our audience with the best in content.

“We’ve already seen our audience respond favorably to wrestling. It’s a preferred viewing choice. Yes, Raw will be on Mun2, but details are part of an official announcement still to follow.”

Nonetheless, a WWE official last week said that both Telemundo and Mun2 will be airing wrestling, although a Telemundo spokeswoman maintained that only Mun2 would have it. USA is slated to start airing the WWE in October.

In addition to the WWE, Mun2, which targets young Latinos aged 12 to 34, has acquired the animated series Huevocartoon.

The cable service has also commissioned a major research study on Latino youth.

“Mun2 is embarking on one of the most exhaustive research initiatives conducted on young U.S. Latinos,” said Zel. “Our commitment to research will allow us to continue to deliver on a promise of broad, inclusive content that accurately reflects our audience’s voice. Our focus is to deliver creative content and high quality production that is both authentic and relevant.”

Telemundo, with the new slogan “Made for You,” announced that it is not only expanding into original primetime dramas, but presenting a miniseries based on a hit song for the upcoming season.

For the new season, Telemundo, whose budget to create programming has increased three-fold in recent years, according to executives, has four new novelas, and is adding two 13-episode dramas for weekend primetime. Loteria examines what happens to people who become overnight millionaires by winning the lotto, while Envios looks at the lives of immigrants who work in the States and send money back home.

The network is also tackling a primetime miniseries, Pedro Navaja, which is based by a 1970s song that Ruben Blades made into a hit.

In addition, Telemundo is introducing two new reality series, La Quinceanera and Suenos y Sorpresas.

UNIVISION IN BIG 5?

Univision, citing Nielsen data indicating that it was the leading network overall among viewers 18 to 34, 19 times this TV season through April 25 and that it had finished second 26 times, third 41 times and fourth 51 times, made the case to media buyers that it join ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC as a member of the “Big 5.”

The network said it had scored a 36% rise among that hard-to-reach demo, averaging 1.36 million of those viewers.

Univision also said it would enter the late-night and Sunday morning news arenas in the upcoming season.

Its late-night plans call for the originally produced Ay Que Noche! to air weeknights at midnight.

Univision is currently searching for a host, who will oversee a personality-driven show that will also showcase musical performances, stage acts, celebrity sessions and intercontinental satellite interviews before a live audience.

Otto Padron, vice president of programming and promotion at Univision, told MCN after a post-presentation press conference that he anticipates Aye Que Noche! will open new viewer and advertising doors for the network, just as it did when it filled a morning void with the debut of Despierta America.

“We’re not keeping the viewers, but they are not watching [NBC’s The Tonight Show With Jay] Leno, [Comedy Central’s The Daily Show With] Jon Stewart or [Cartoon Network’s] Adult Swim in a big way. There is a real opportunity for us here,” he said.

LEAD-IN FROM NEWS

Padron expects the audience to flow from local news at 11 p.m. and its national news program, Noticiero Univision Ultima Hora, at 11:30 p.m.

“We’ve been repeating some comedies at midnight, but that’s not what we want. We’ll now have a strong lead-out.”

On the news front, Univision will introduce Punto de Encuentro con Jorge Ramos. The noted journalist will host no-holds-barred panels comprising newsmakers, writers, journalists and celebrities that will discuss news events and topics important to the Hispanic community. During the presentation, Ramos said he anticipated the show would become a stop for foreign leaders in Latino nations.

The Spanish-language TV leader, which will take the wraps off five new novelas during the 2005-06 TV season, all from programming supplier Grupo Televisa S.A.: El Amor no Tiene Precio, Contra Viento y Marea, Alborado, La Esposa Virgen and Barrera de Amor.

The announcement of the novella additions follows news of a recent dispute, resulting in the resignation of Televisa chairman Emilio Jean Azcarraga from Univision’s board. The parties are also in litigation over $1.5 million in royalties tied to music awards show Premio Lo Nuestro, the network’s highest-rated show this past February.

During the press conference, Univision president and chief operating officer Ray Rodriguez dismissed the monies involved in the suit as a small amount. He also pushed aside queries about tensions as a threat to Univision’s program supply, calling the deal, signed in 1992 and running through 2017, “ironclad.”

LATIN GRAMMYS

Executives also talked up the company’s first-ever presentation of the Latin Grammys in November and its wall-to-wall coverage of the 2006 World Cup. Univision (56) and Telefutura (eight) will show all of the tournament’s matches live.

Telefutura, which introduced a new primetime news show, En Vivo Y Directo, at the upfront, and cable cousin Galavisiòn will also present replays of the matches from Germany in primetime from June 9 through July 9, 2006.

Univision officials said with the growth in Hispanic population and more time-zone friendly scheduling — the afternoon, versus early morning and overnights — the networks expect to increase their World Cup impressions to 45 million from 32 million in 2002, when the competition was hosted by Japan and South Korea. Univision has already sold about 60% of its World Cup inventory, according to network executives.

Elsewhere, Galavisiòn will offer five original shows, three of which aim to bolster the network’s Saturday-night lineup: Pulso TV, in which viewers can relive the weeks most memorable moments on Spanish-language TV; La Lista, a presentation of top 10 weekly lists, covering the gossip, celebrities and destinations; and Acceso Maximo, an interactive show in which viewers, through text messaging and online voting, will be able to select music videos.

With El Rastro del Crimen, Galavisiòn will jump into the forensics craze, taking viewers to the scenes of real-life murder mysteries. En Profundidad each month will take an in-depth look at pressing social issues impacting Latino lives.

DEPORTES EXPANSION

During the network’s upfront, ESPN Inc. announced that it would build its portfolio of Spanish-language assets, teaming with sister company ABC Radio and Lotus Communications to launch ESPN Deportes Radio as a full-time, national network.

ESPN Deportes executives said the network is expected to launch this September, and that its rollout would mark the nation’s first 24-hour Spanish-language sports-radio network. ABC Radio Networks will provide advertising sales, affiliate sales and marketing, while ESPN will supply the programming.

Lotus-owned KWKW 1330 AM in Los Angeles will serve as the flagship for the network, which anticipates launching with affiliates in Fresno, Bakersfield and Pomona, Calif.; Las Vegas and Reno, Nev.; and Tucson, Ariz..

ESPN Deportes and ESPN Radio senior vice president Traug Keller said the network’s “five star” media platform, including the radio and television product, Internet (www.espndeportes.com) ESPN Deportes wireless service and the ESPN Deportes La Revista magazine provide operators with numerous opportunities to reach the Hispanic marketplace.

“These different platforms will help us drive awareness and distribution,” Keller said. “This will inevitably help our cable partners.”

DISTRIBUTION HILL

Still, the network faces an uphill climb with regard to cable distribution. While the network is in front of 11 million homes through deals with such MSOs as Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications Inc., sources said the service has not crossed the 1 million subscriber plateau in actual viewers. ESPN officials would not quantify its subscriber base.

Keller, though, said the network hopes to announce several deals in the near future.

“Our advertisers know we’re a fledgling network, but they’re here for the long run,” Keller said. “We expect our numbers to be robust in the not so distant future.”

On the programming side, ESPN Deportes will bow its own version of Dream Job this fall. Competitors aspiring for on-air positions on the tentatively titled Dream Job: Reportero will vie for a chance to win a job the 2006 World Cup.

ESPN executive vice president of programming and production Mark Shapiro said unique version of other ESPN Original Entertainment shows could find their way to ESPN Deportes, but only if it makes sense for the network’s Hispanic male target audience.

 

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