Though Hispanics Embrace the Web, Video Content Lags

The fast-growing Hispanic Web audience has a ravenous appetite for video on the Web. But digital buyers complain of a dearth of content targeted to this group, and say that a huge market exists for the right video purveyor to serve.

According to comScore, of the 20 million U.S. Hispanics now online, 64 percent consume multimedia content on the Web, a few ticks ahead of the general market’s 62 percent. The list of the top sites reaching Hispanics is rife with video players: from YouTube to MySpace Video to guy-centric video sites like Break and Crackle. But few offer much Spanish-language or Latino-targeted content.

“Nobody is seizing the day by aggregating this content or audience,” said Marla Skiko, senior vp, director of digital innovation, SMG Multicultural. Several buyers called Hulu’s lack of Spanish-language content a missed opportunity in light of its recent expansion into global content, alongside the fact that part-owner NBC Universal owns Telemundo.

“Hulu would be a great place to marry our brands with relevant and premium content,” said Leticia Juarez, vp of media & promotions at Hispanic ad firm Castells. “Instead, you have to kind of go out and search for these things to add to your mix.”

Targeting the U.S. Hispanic audience online has always been tricky, given its diversity and the variance in different generations’ comfort consuming content in English. “There is no sort of obvious behavior that makes U.S. Hispanics different,” explained Alex Banks, managing director of comScore Latin America. “And the U.S. Hispanic audience is unique in that they don’t need to consume content in Spanish.”

That may be why Hulu and YouTube have been slower to capitalize on the demo. Perhaps not forever, though: sources close to Hulu said it has had serious conversations with several Spanish language content producers.

And YouTube is actually further along than Hulu, boasting of partnerships with TV Azteca, Venevision International, Spanish Broadcasting System, Sorpresa TV, among others—but no deals with top networks Univision or Telemundo. However the site is also loaded with pirated uploads of novelas from networks like Univision, including the popular Televisa-produced Mañana Es Para Siempre—which generates hundreds of thousands of views.

Of course, would be an obvious contender to own the Hispanic video market. But the network is hampered by a prolonged legal dispute with Televisa, its biggest TV producer, over digital rights.   

Thus, the timing would seem to be right for an independent, Latino-aimed video site to emerge. However, the economy has not made it easy. The much-hyped Voy TV, aimed at English-speaking Latinos, flamed out in late 2007. According to founder Fernando Espuelas, Voy was finding an audience during its short life but a planned IPO was derailed by the economy.

The similarly targeted, after a splashy launch presentation in December of 2007, only went live this past February after having to scale back some of its planned offerings. That site has landed several prominent advertisers, including Landrover and Volvo, and traffic is ticking upward, according to Moses Frenck. Mio.TV’s executive vp, business development. “Thankfully, we’re well capitalized,” said.

Meanwhile, the music video/social media-focused Barrio 305 has seen its once promising ad business collapse since the economy went south. Executives at the Miami, Fla.-based company say they are looking to hold on until business brightens. “At this point it’s just a matter of survival,” said Noah Otalvaro, the site’s head of business development.

Buyers say that dollars aimed at Hispanic targeted video are also equally as vulnerable in the current climate. “Because of the economy, if often becomes part of the ‘where do you cut conversation?’” said Castells’ Juarez.