First Mover: Randy Falco

Univision’s new CEO says it’s time to embrace the realities of the Hispanic media marketplace

You don’t have loads of Spanish-language media experience under your belt. ¿Habla Español?

[Laughs] I don’t speak Spanish. I understand enough of it, having spent some time running Telemundo, and I put in a lot of time in Spain during the Barcelona Olympics. But I don’t pretend to speak Spanish, and I don’t want anyone to think that I can. When our English-language executives and Spanish-language executives get together, we all speak the universal language of television.

Do you feel like you’re at a remove from the audience you serve because you’re not fully immersed in the culture you represent?

You know, it’s funny, but it doesn’t all come down to language. It’s not a dodge: I think language is important, but the culture is so much more important, and you need to understand the differences not only between the general-market culture and our audience but also within the Hispanic community as a whole. The Hispanic population in this country is not a monolith. When you’re in Miami, the newscast is going to be different from the newscast in Los Angeles.

The U.S. Hispanic population has grown 43 percent in 10 years, yet media agencies still treat those consumers like a niche segment.

You would think the very sophisticated media agency and CMO community would see this tsunami coming and be able to react to it faster than they have. It really is a conservative culture. The job is to get advertisers and brands awakened to the fact that Hispanics are a $1 trillion economy, representing 50 million people, and their budgets should reflect the same thing. In other words, 15 to 20 percent of an advertiser’s budget should be set aside for Hispanic media every single year. One in six Americans are Hispanic. In another 40 years it’ll be one in three.

So what’s the big stumbling block?

The ads themselves have to be different. When you do a car commercial targeting Hispanics, it has to feature the entire family, because when they shop for a car they shop as a family. On the general-market side, a prospective car buyer will have done all his homework on the Internet. They make their decisions and they go on in and they buy a car as fast as they can. And that’s just not the way it’s done on the Hispanic side and you have to be sensitive to that.

There’s a dearth of programming on the general-entertainment side.

The buying community tells the advertisers they’ll find all the Hispanic viewers they need to reach with George Lopez. You know, just check the box. Well, that’s ridiculous. Forty-two of the top 50 shows for Hispanics 18-49 are on Univision. We have a 70 percent unduplicated audience and there isn’t any other network in all of television that comes close to that. So the most efficient way you can reach Hispanics in this country is Univision. It’s one-stop shopping.

Your upfront numbers seem to suggest you’re making some headway.

True. In the past several months we have activated 150 new brands. In this upfront alone, we added another 45 brands that have never been on Univision before. To me, that suggests that maybe the agencies and the CMOs and the brands are actually starting to get it.

You may have lucked out with your new gig: Your tenure at Univision begins as America develops its latest crush on soccer.

I think we have a tiger by the tail here with soccer. For the first time, it seems the sport is really taking off in this country, and you’ll see that reflected in the rights fees for the [2018 and 2022] World Cup. ESPN and Fox are going to make unprecedented bids for the English-language rights. That’s how you know soccer is no longer a niche sport.