SATELLITE TV NETWORKS FROM U.S. TURN ON LATIN AMERICAN VIEWERS

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Latin Americans want their MTV. They also apparently want their CNN, TNT, HBO, USA and any of more than a dozen other Latin American versions of U.S.-originated satellite TV networks that have been staking out a foothold in the region.

At least that's what the preliminary data an ambitious Pan-Latin American multimedia research study found, the first to document media penetration and usage for all 19 Latin American nations (AAI, Dec. 12).

"It confirms a lot of the thoughts we had going into the study," said Charlotte Leonard, senior VP-general manager, Turner Entertainment Networks International.

Turner, along with MTV Networks and USA Networks, helped organize the research initiative, which was conducted by Audits & Surveys Inc. and sponsored by cable networks, magazines, ad agencies and advertisers.

Essentially, the study found that cable TV penetration currently is about 16% of Latin American TV households, a level that's as much as 40% greater than any previous estimates had indicated.

"Cable is far more widespread down there than any prior estimate has shown," said Tim Brooks, senior VP-director of research, USA Networks, which launched USA in Latin America in April.

Fran Kennish, senior VP-director of media research, Young & Rubicam, New York, an agency sponsor, agrees that findings bode well for cable in Latin America, but she cautions that the study intentionally oversampled cable households and therefore likely produced slightly inflated numbers for cable penetration, by about 5% to 10%.

However, Ms. Kennish said the results are good news for all media. In addition to a greater level of cable penetration and usage than previously known, she said the study found significantly higher levels of magazine readership, especially pass-along readership than in the U.S.

She said that is primarily due to a greater number of persons per household.

"The average household size is 4.4 persons in Latin America vs. only 2.3 persons in the U.S.," said Paul Donato, senior VP, Audits & Surveys. The larger household populations are a benefit to TV programmers, Mr. Donato said, enabling them to reach more family viewers than in the U.S.

Indeed, the study found that 38% of Latin American TV homes own only one TV set and 76% own two or less.

"The large number of one TV households means audiences are less fragmented," said Mr. Donato.

Equally significant he said, was the finding that TV penetration is nearly twice that of telephones in Latin America, where more than 90% of homes have some form of TV, while only 55% have telephones.

While the researchers are still analyzing product category data from the study, preliminary findings indicate that cable homes are more affluent than the general population.

The study found that only 5% of the general population bought a personal computer for business compared to 10% of cable households. Whereas 12% of the general population own a credit card in their own name, 17% of cable household respondents do. And not surprisingly, 65% of cable household respondents said they owned a VCR, compared to only 46% for the general population.

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