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Hispanic Networks: Ready for Prime Time

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Like a beautiful, bodice-ripped starlet chewing up the scenery on a telenovela, television’s top two major Hispanic networks plan to draw extra attention in this year’s upfront marketplace. That’s a welcome plot twist for media buyers involved in the upfront melodrama.

Univision started its push at an extravaganza at New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center earlier in May featuring Latino superstar Ricky Martin and a glimpse of new offerings on the horizon. Telemundo, meanwhile, began wooing buyers through March meetings in Miami using a blend of glamorous talent and what its executives believe is a strong story line about the growing Hispanic demographic.

Univision officials say the Lincoln Center presentation attracted more general-market buyers and more first-time attendees than ever before. Statistics help explain why. Univision cites the U.S. Census in claiming that the country’s Hispanic population is now larger than the total populations of Canada, Spain, Argentina or Colombia -- and that Hispanics now make up 16 percent of the U.S. population. One in five young adults is Hispanic, according to Univision’s analysis of Nielsen universe estimates.

Lisa Torres, evp and group account director at MPG’s diversity unit, says she believes the presentations will help generate double-digit growth in upfront revenue for the two players. “They’ll get back the money that they lost in last year’s upfront when everyone was holding back money,” she says.

That’s exactly what David Lawenda, president of ad sales and marketing at Univision Communications, is banking on. Mike Rodriguez, svp of network sales and marketing at Telemundo, likewise predicts the 2010 upfront could be Telemundo’s “best ever.”

Lawenda points to key reasons for his exuberance. Last year, he explains, while the general-market upfront was down 15 percent to 22 percent in total dollars, Univision saw its revenue rise 3 percent to an estimated $1.24 billion. (One buyer, who declined to speak for attribution, put the combined 2009 upfront haul for Telemundo and Univision at about flat with ’08, adding in revenue for their smaller channels.) More recently, the Hispanic scatter market has been through the roof. “Fourth-quarter scatter had 50 percent year-over-year growth, and we built on that in the first quarter,” Lawenda says. “Second-quarter scatter was up 100 percent over last year.”

Lawenda notes that Univision “activated” 34 new brands in 2010 in every major category. In the just-concluded TV season, he boasts that Univision was the No. 1 net in the country on at least 65 nights -- ahead of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC -- in delivery of key adults 18-34.

Execs at both networks expect more positive data in the first quarter of 2011 when the U.S. Census puts out a fresh set of statistics that will reveal the extent of growth in the Latino market.

One big crowd pleaser during Univision’s presentation was the announcement it is now the exclusive U.S. home of the Mexican National Soccer Team, with rights to all the team’s qualifying matches for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, as well as friendly matches -- which amounts to some 10 games per year.

“The announcement was a big win for them and is in line with their soccer strategy,” says Alex Lopez Negrete, CEO, chief creative officer of Hispanic agency Lopez Negrete Communications. “I’m sure it surprised a lot of folks on the Telemundo side.”

Another striking aspect of Univision’s presentation was the sheer volume of new programming -- more than 20 shows -- some of which will be produced by its new U.S. studio. Among the made-in-America fare is a novela called Eva Luna and several reality and game shows. In those shows, the network plans to push more opportunities for brand integrations than it ever has. Univision’s new strategy “is exciting from an advertiser perspective. It’s what a lot of advertisers have been asking for,” says Marcy Greenberger, vp, media director at Hispanic media-buying agency Tapestry. Univision claims it offered 4,000 hours of home-grown programming during the current season across all three of its networks, but for those looking for opportunities on the mainstay Univision network, integrations have been available only “on a handful of shows,” adds MPG’s Torres.

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