Latin Influence

Meet the executives and icons shaping the massive, and growing, Hispanic media market

If it hasn’t sunk in, you’re thick or, possibly, racist. Either way, you’ve blown a huge opportunity: America is becoming a Latin nation. That’s the headline of the 2010 U.S. Census.

There are 50.5 million Hispanics in the U.S., 15 million more than 10 years ago; they now make up 16 percent of the total U.S. population. That means vast and growing economic power, with Hispanics expected to spend $1.2 trillion in 2012.

Incredibly, the general media and advertising market has been in a state of denial about this fundamental and transformational demographic shift. And it’s not like it hasn’t had time to digest it: it’s been trending this way for some 30 years.

A report recently released by Porter Novelli says 50 percent of U.S. brands still don’t meaningfully target Hispanics with advertising. And Nielsen reports that while 75 percent of the top 200 advertisers spent money on cable or broadcast advertising aimed at Hispanics, the outlay averaged just 8 percent of their total ad budgets.

Vibrant, diverse, and creative, Hispanic media produces novelas increasingly on par in terms of ratings with the English-language networks’ prime-time fare. It also produces sharp executives running billion-dollar companies. And there is intrigue and gossip: Joe Uva, CEO of Univsion—now the fifth broadcast network in terms of ratings—was ousted and a coterie of executives underneath him were either fired or marginalized earlier this year. Whispers point to Emilio Azcarraga Jean, CEO of Grupo Televisa—the largest media company in Latin America, which recently bought a $1.2 billion stake in Unvision—as the force behind the bloodletting.

What’s more, there’s money. American marketers and media companies may focus their attenion elsewhere, but the sheer size of the market means significant business. SMG Multicultural CEO Monica Gadsby represents clients that spend $1 billion a year across a multitude of Spanish-language media. Univision alone, with David Lawenda in charge of ad sales, takes in $2.5 billion annually in ad revenue across its national broadcast networks, local radio and TV stations, and website. CNN en Español brought in veteran media executive Cynthia Hudson a year ago and she has led a revamp of programming and branding. And People en Español parent Time Inc. recently named Michelle Ebanks president of the hugely popular and successful Spanish-language title (in addition to her oversight of Essence Communications).

Content and talent continue to grow ratings and revenue. Telemundo is spending some $100 million per year producing original content at its production studio in Miami, under the direction of international president Marcos Santana. Longtime Hispanic TV show hosts Mario Kreutzberger and Cristina Saralegui are among the most popular figures in broadcast TV. Univision’s nightly news anchor and news show host Jorge Ramos—a Walter Cronkite figure in the Hispanic market—has become an unofficial advisor to the Obama administration on immigration reform issues.

We’ve put together a group of 11 of the most influential executives and personalities in Hispanic media. They are sure to shape the Hispanic—and, increasingly, the general U.S. media market—for years to come.

Cynthia Hudson
CNN en Español

Cynthia Hudson had her start in Hispanic media where few executives have ventured before—on the ground as a reporter. She worked for Univision‘s WLTV in Miami in the early 1980s, then switched over to management, including as a producer on the first daytime U.S. Hispanic TV magazine show, TV Mujer, which won an Emmy in 1989.

Hudson has also held a variety of different production posts at Telemundo, MGM Networks Latin America, and Spanish Broadcasting System, where she ran its TV network, Mega TV, as well as the company’s website,

In November, after less than a year at CNN en Español—where she oversees all aspects of newsgathering, programming, production, and personnel not only for CNN en Español, but CNN en Español Radio and—Hudson launched a full slate of new programs and redesigned branding. CNN en Español, carried only on paid cable tiers, has in the past year signed up 1 million new households, boosting its total household subscriber base to 5 million.

Hudson also runs the CNN en Español bureau at CNN’s headquarters office in Atlanta, as well as bureaus in Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, and Jerusalem. She also oversees CNN en Español Radio, which is distributed nationally via Sirius and heard across Latin America. In August, Hudson will supervise the launch of CNN en Español’s new website.

Recently, CNN en Español reporters have covered the civil unrest in Venezuela and President Obama’s trip to Puerto Rico for CNN. “We are engaging more . . . to have them use our [expertise] in the areas we cover,” Hudson says, adding this will help drive more Hispanic viewers to CNN en Español. The goal? To be the leading news source for Latinos in the U.S.

Monica Gadsby
Starcom MediaVest Group Multicultural

With $1 billion to oversee, Monica Gadsby sounds like she’s a hedge fund manager. What she is, however, is a media buyer with a big wallet—one who’s spending money across all Hispanic and other multicultural media on behalf of U.S. clients.

Gadsby directs a staff of about 130 “media experts” at the two Starcom MediaVest Multicultural agencies, Tapestry and Forty-Two Degrees, and coordinates all Hispanic selling efforts with the general market SMG agencies Starcom and MediaVest. Outside of the U.S., Gadsby oversees all sales offices in Latin America. Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Walmart, Kraft, Disney, and Burger King are among the clients she represents.

Shortly after starting out at Leo Burnett in 1987, Gadsby, who has worked with the same holding company her entire career, helped found a multicultural unit—which has since become Tapestry. In 2010, she was named to her current position of CEO, Latin America, SMG Multicultural, giving her oversight of Latin America, too.

Gadsby strives not to be distracted by the large dollar sign attached to her job. “Our market is not immune to swings in the economy,” she says, “but we are still pacing ahead of the general ad market and there is still so much unrealized potential.”

Mario Kreutzberger + Jorge Ramos
Sabado Gigante | Noticiero Univision

A household name among millions of Hispanic families, Mario Kreutzberger, aka Don Francisco, is the creator and, for the past 49 years, the considerably larger-than-life host of Sabado Gigante, the world’s longest-running TV variety show. Originally produced in his native Chile, Sabado Gigante has been on Univision in the U.S. since 1986 and now reaches 100 million people in 42 countries each week.

(Off air, Kreutzberger has worked closely with the U.S. Social Security Administration in reaching out to Hispanics, and has hosted numerous telethons.)

The show, with its massive audience—which Kreutzberger says is like “a soup with many ingredients that everyone from grandparents to grandchildren . . . can enjoy”—is one of the most universal, albeit lowbrow, franchises in all of Spanish-language media.

On the other end of the spectrum, Kreutzberger’s Univision colleague Jorge Ramos has anchored the network’s nightly news telecast, Noticiero Univision, for 25 years, reaching 50 million people worldwide, including 2 million nightly in the U.S. He has covered five wars and interviewed world leaders, including U.S. Presidents Obama, Clinton, and both Bushes, along with Fidel Castro and most Latin American heads of state.

Ramos has been outspoken on immigration reform, and is a conduit between Hispanic viewers and politicians, most notably President Obama (his White Houses access is unprecedented for a Spanish-language journalist). “Because of the lack of political representation, Hispanic media has an added responsibility,” Ramos says. “We have to address issues and defend certain groups that, otherwise, would be ostracized or forgotten in American society.”

Michelle Ebanks
People en Español

When Time Inc. bought 51 percent of Essence Communications in 2001, it was Michelle Ebanks, then a vp at the company, who led the discussion on behalf of Time. Shortly thereafter, then-Essence CEO Ed Lewis offered her a job as group publisher.

Ebanks had already put in 16 years in the magazine publishing business, including as the corporate business manager of 13 Condé Nast publications, and general manager and finance director of Time Inc.’s Money.

Now president of Essence (a position she was promoted to when Time Inc. acquired the remaining 49 percent in 2005), Ebanks last month was named to the newly created post of president of People en Español, the leading Spanish-language magazine in the country with a circulation of about 550,000 per issue. Ebanks’ appointment was simultaneously announced with that of new People en Español publisher Monique Manso, who will report to Ebanks.

Year-to-date, People en Español is up 46 percent in advertising pages, and Time Inc. has charged Ebanks with continuing to stoke People en Español’s advertising and marketing fires.

Under Ebanks’ watch, the annual Essence Music Festival, held in New Orleans, has grown into the largest R&B and pop music event in the country (last year over 400,000 people attended). Now, she has inherited oversight of People en Español’s annual September festival held in conjunction with Hispanic Heritage Month in New York City.

David Lawenda
Univison Communications
David Lawenda better like numbers because he has to deal with them more than your average sales guy.

That’s because he oversees sales and marketing not only for the Univision and TeleFutura broadcast networks, but for eight cable networks, as well as Univision Interactive Media and Univision Local Media (62 TV stations and 70 radio stations). Together they bring in approximately $2.5 billion in ad revenue annually. Oh—and he manages more than 800 sales executives across the country.

Lawenda has created—and now runs—Univision’s new Client Development Group, which helps marketers develop and execute strategies to drive sales within the Hispanic community. The group is responsible for 400 accounts, and to help run it Lawenda hired 50 executives away from media agencies and clients like Procter & Gamble, Mars, and Burger King.

Over the past year, Univision has added about 150 new brands to its client ledger. And Lawenda feels pharmaceuticals and automotive are particularly rich hunting grounds for his sales teams. “We go head-to-head every night with NBC and CBS, but our media investment still doesn’t reflect the size of our audience—yet,” he says.

Having survived a recent C-suite purge, which included CEO Joe Uva, who hired him, Lawenda says, “I’m still here because of the [sales side] results.”

Gustavo Cisneros
Cisneros Group
Venezuelan billionaire Gustavo Cisneros controls one of the largest privately held media, entertainment, telecommunications, and consumer products companies in the world—and it has considerable inroads into U.S. Hispanic media thanks to its Venevision Productions.

Headquartered in Miami, Venevision—the largest indie producer of Spanish-language TV programming in the U.S.—provides Univision with 40 percent of its on-air content (including  two talk shows, a variety program, and one novela), along with three novelas and a teen musical series on Univision’s sister broadcast network, TeleFutura.

Thanks to a recent multimillion-dollar renovation and digital conversion, Venevision now has the capacity to produce more than 1,200 hours of high-definition programming annually. (The programming it produces in the U.S. not only airs here, but is sold throughout Latin American.)

Last year it produced the novela Eva Luna with Univision Studios. Its final episode drew 6.9 million viewers—the most watched domestically produced novela ever in the U.S.

And while Univision has opened its own studio in Miami, it’s expected to continue to do joint novela productions with Cisneros given Eva Luna’s success.

Cisneros has said that he wants to continue to grow and sharpen his company’s focus on all forms of media. In addition to its TV program production, the Cisneros Group also provides mobile apps and Latin content targeting the Hispanic community through its Venevision Mobile unit, as well as original Spanish-language films for various VOD and DVD platforms.

Cristina Saralegui
El Show de Cristina
After 21 years of hosting her talk program, El Show de Cristina, on Univision, Cristina Saralegui, widely considered the Oprah Winfrey of Hispanic television, was shown the door last November, when the network abruptly cancelled her show. It was a somewhat contentious departure, with Saralegui claiming that Univision let her go because of her age (she’s 63).

Univision has not commented publicly on Saralegui’s departure, but when her contract with the network ended in December 2010, Univision competitor Telemundo quickly scooped her up, and her new weekend, prime-time show will premiere later this year.

Her popularity doesn’t seem to have diminished in her short time off the air. A special she hosted on Telemundo May 31, which reunited the cast of the Telemundo novela La Reina del Sur, drew an audience of 2.3 million, including 1.4 million viewers 18-49, the highest-rated Telemundo entertainment special ever.

“I think in many ways I am outspoken like Oprah,” Saralegui says. “I call them how I see them and this leadership spirit lends itself for such comparisons.”

About her long-running show, she says, “It gave a voice to millions of Latinos in the U.S. and throughout the world who may not have otherwise been heard.”

Emilio Azcarraga Jean
Grupo Televisa
Emilio Azcarraga Jean not only runs the largest media company in Latin America, Grupo Televisa, but recently extended his long-term programming deal with Univision, and invested $1.2 billion for a stake in the company.

His Univision investment has given him a powerful voice. While no one is speaking for attribution, insiders say Azcarraga Jean played a large part in the recent layoffs of its top executives.

Azcarraga Jean, who took over as head of Televisa in 1997, has had a sometimes contentious relationship with Univision. When founder Jerry Perenchio put the company up for sale in 2006, Azcarraga Jean assembled a group of investors to buy it. Perenchio sold to another group, headed by media investor Haim Saban. At the time, Televisa owned 11 percent of Univision, which it sold.

Under the most recent deal, Azcarraga Jean got an initial 5 percent stake in Univision, and has an option to buy another 5 percent in three years. But he’s hedged that bet. In 2008, Televisa signed a long-term deal with Univision archrival Telemundo that allows programming in the U.S. to be distributed in Mexico via a Televisa cable channel there, which gives Telemundo a good marketing platform.

Still, Televisa, according to sources, gets close to half of its worldwide novela licensing fees from Univision, so it seems like Azcarraga Jean is not going to do much to bite the hand that feeds him.

Marcos Santana
Telemundo International
Telemundo’s financial turnaround is due, in large part, to the decision to produce its own novelas in the U.S., which have become popular vehicles for product integration plays. The guy behind all that novela production? Marcos Santana.

During Santana’s tenure as president of Telemundo International, the company has become the world’s second-largest producer of Spanish-language programming. International programming sales revenue now covers 40 percent to 50 percent of U.S. programming production costs.

Santana is intimately involved in the development of most of Telemundo’s original novelas including El Clon, for which he had negotiated a partnership deal with Brazil’s Globo TV to allow Telemundo to do a remake of its original version. El Clon—an ambitious project filmed in Morocco, Colombia, and Miami, and which has plots revolving around human cloning and drug trafficking—aired on Telemundo last year and captured 1.4 million viewers for its premiere episode, the second-largest audience at 8 p.m. ever for the network.

Santana, who holds a law degree and a master’s degree in copyright law, designed and executed a partnership with Grupo Televisa to air original Telemundo content on its cable network in Mexico—an important piece of business because it exposes Telemundo programming to Mexican residents who may eventually come to the U.S. and remain viewers.

Before joining Telemundo, Santana founded Tepuy International, where he spent 20 years. It became a top producer and distributor of novelas. In 2005, he and Patricio Wills were given joint responsibility for overseeing Telemundo Studios in Miami, with Santana in charge of development of original series, procuring scripts, and overseeing casting, roles at which he continues to excel.

Monica Lozano
How do you say “ink stained” in Spanish?

Monica Lozano, CEO of impreMedia, runs the two largest Spanish-language daily newspapers in the U.S., La Opinion in Los Angeles and El Diario/La Prensa in New York. Journalism is in her blood: La Opinion was founded by her grandfather in 1926, and, in 2004, the family acquired El Diario/La Prensa from CPK Media.

It was in 2004, when that deal was completed, that Lozano became publisher and CEO of La Opinion, succeeding her brother Jose Ignacio. (He became vice chairman of the then newly formed impreMedia.) Since Lozano took over, its circulation has more than doubled. Last year, she added the title of CEO of impreMedia, whose print holdings include six newspapers and national magazine Vista. The newspapers reach 15 markets, and about 25 percent of all U.S. Hispanics see impreMedia content either in print or online.

Lozano also finds time to serve on seven boards of directors of outside companies and organizations, including the Walt Disney Company.

While American newspapers are struggling, and mostly failing, to keep readership, Lozano is beating the odds. “We have experienced double-digit growth in total readership in almost every one of our publications,” she says. “Our papers for the most part have been in their communities for decades and their brand equity is unparalleled.”

Lozano, who points to Nielsen research that shows the Hispanic community is a heavy user of the Internet and mobile devices, has also improved and expanded impreMedia’s profile online. It’s moving, in fact, from being a newspaper publisher to a fully integrated media company. “[This] will give us the ability to reach and influence an even greater number of Latinos,” she says.