Clear Channel Hits Hispanic Radio Trail

Clear Channel Radio intends to be a major player in the burgeoning Hispanic radio market and last week, the San Antonio-based radio giant committed to convert up to 25 of its 1,200 stations to Spanish-language formats over the next 12-18 months.

“While the strides made in serving the Hispanic radio market have been significant to date, my focus will be on identifying opportunities to bring Spanish-language radio formats to all-sized markets,” said Alfredo Alonso, Clear Channel svp of Hispanic radio, who most recently served as chairman, president and CEO of Mega Communications, owner of 20 Hispanic radio stations.

The rollout began last week with the launch of Viva in Atlanta, simulcast on WWVA-FM and WVWA-FM. When the launch is complete, Clear Channel, which currently programs Spanish-language formats on 18 of its stations, will program 43 Hispanic radio stations—trailing Univision Radio (with 72 stations) and Entravision Communications (with 54).

Clear Channel’s move was welcomed by Hispanic media executives. “Some of our clients are looking for places to advertise to Hispanics, but since there isn’t much available, they don’t do much in those markets,” said Esmeralda Gonzalez, media planning supervisor for independent Ornelas & Associates in Dallas.

Compared with general-market radio, which is growing at an anemic 2-3 percent, Hispanic radio advertising is in the double digits. And unlike general-market radio, which suffers from increased fragmentation, Spanish- language radio remains relatively undeveloped.

“There is so much more room for more Spanish-language radio stations, especially outside the major metros, where there are only a few small signal stations,” said Rosa Serrano, svp, group account director of multicultural for Interpublic Group’s Initiative.