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.