Powerhouse Univision Finds Success Isn’t All That

In prime time, season-to-date, Spanish-language network Univision is beating the CW among all adults and viewers in general-market ratings. And, on any given night, Univision, from 8 p.m.-9 p.m., is out-rating one or more of its Big Four rivals in younger demos with telenovela La Fea Mas Bella.

The hour-long novela has also seen less of its audience defect to Fox’s juggernaut American Idol on Tuesdays than its English-language network counterparts. In fact, it’s generated some of its highest ratings of the season versus Idol. And on Fridays, Univision ranks third for the season in prime time among adults 18-34, beating ABC, NBC and Fox.

With all those stats to sell, one would think advertisers would be clamoring for Univision avails. Well, they’re not. And it’s not for lack of trying by Univision, which recently unveiled a research presentation for prospective clients containing reams of data highlighting the network’s prime-time attributes.

But media buyers and Wall Street analysts say the disconnect between Univision’s ad success and ad clients goes beyond ratings.

Marc Goldstein, CEO of media agency conglomerate GroupM North America, said not only do clients have to make hefty commitments to produce commercials in Spanish, they also have to do extensive research to understand how to market those products to Hispanic audiences. “You can’t just throw a commercial into the rotation like you would on any English-language network,” he said. “There are cultural nuances and not every brand is as strong in the Hispanic marketplace.”

But Goldstein is quick to point out that ad spending by U.S. advertisers on Hispanic television has been increasing at a greater rate than on English-language TV. “My sense is there is greater and greater receptivity to do it,” he said.

Lee Westerfield, managing director and senior broadcast research analyst at Harris Nesbitt, said that year-over-year, ad spending on Univision has outgrown spending growth on the English-language networks between 6 percent and 8 percent, but won’t likely grow by numbers greater than that.

“Univision has a powerful story to tell and its challenge in this upfront will be to persuade categories like luxury items, pharmaceuticals and computers—which aren’t currently in as heavily—to take the plunge,” Westerfield said. Univision, while providing its latest research presentation for this story, did not make its sales executives available.

Monica Gadsby, CEO, managing director of Tapestry, the multicultural unit of Starcom MediaVest, said Univision has gone so far as to offer to help clients market creatively to the Hispanic audience. “Univision has been pretty diligent in their efforts, but they just need to continue preaching harder,” she said.

Tapestry’s clients, including such big-ticket accounts as Procter & Gamble, Kraft, General Motors, Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s and Masterfoods, have expanded their use of Hispanic TV networks by double-digit percentages each year, Gadsby said. “We have been persistent with the message to our clients about Hispanic television and work closely with our counterparts at Starcom and MediaVest who buy English-language television.”