STRONGER HISPANIC IDENTITY SOUGHT - SKEWING YOUNGER: LUKEWARM PROGRAMMING TRIGGERS SHIFT

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Media buyers are anxious to see the new line-up of Hispanic programming.

Buyers say Univision, the unquestionable leader, is expected to stick to its successful line-up of novelas, "Sabado Gigante" and "Cristina." But, Univision is keeping mum on its intentions.

Meanwhile, Telemundo Network is expected to unveil another host of new shows after its initial revamp fell a little flat with viewers.

"There's such divergence across the marketplace in terms of ethnicity," says Bob Tassie, president of Unity Media, New York, a media buying firm specializing in ethnic markets. "Programming is going to have impact as far as the upfront season is concerned. This [upfront] season will be closely watched."

Telemundo, which was acquired in 1997 by Sony Entertainment, will debut a line-up of U.S.-produced novelas, it says. The hope is that Sony's deep pockets will provide for higher production quality and a product that blends the traditional Latin American genre with more U.S.-oriented story lines, says TereZubizarreta, president-CEO with Zubi Advertising Services, Coral Gables, Fla., and chairman of the media committee of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies. Zubi Advertising handles Hispanic media buying for the Ford division of the Ford Motor Co., Mobil Oil Corp. and S. C. Johnson & Sons.

"You can bet that 'Sabado Gigante' and 'Cristina' are going to continue," she says of the two most popular shows on Univision, but adds that she doesn't believe that anyone really knows what to expect from either network because Univision is shrouded in secrecy and she doesn't know yet what Telemundo is doing. Ms. Zubizarreta says she has great expectations for Telemundo's new line-up.

The result could be a continued shift toward younger audiences for Telemundo, and more buying options for Hispanic media executives, she says and adds "It's something we need from a media buying standpoint," Ms. Zubizarreta says.

Univision likely will counter with "no major shake-up" from last year's line up when it presents at New York's Lincoln Center on May 19, says Monica Gadsby, VP-director of Hispanic media for Chicago-based Starcom the media services division of Leo Burnett Co. Starcom handles Hispanic media buying for Americatel 10/10/123, Miller Brewing Co. and Kellogg Co.

Expected programming adjustments at Univision include a new selection of prime-time novelas and a refined sports format, says Ms. Gadsby.

Ms. Gadsby says she anticipates a revamping of daily sports show "Titulares Deportivos," to mimic other national sports news broadcasts. The network differences will be subtle and nothing revolutionary, Ms. Gadsby says.

"The current line-up is literally delivering Super Bowl like ratings every night," she says. "Why would they change anything?"

Univision executives refused to comment for this story.

For its part, Telemundo also has kept secret its planned line-up during more than a dozen client meetings between April and May, instead opting to parade it May 17 at its upfront event at New York's Sony Imax Theater, says Peter Tortorici, president-CEO of Telemundo Network.

The network will continue to "experiment" in its efforts to target a younger audience, he says. More importantly, Telemundo execs are in "the early stages of building a brand" that will compete against Univision, he says. The network plans to capitalize on the growing ad rates in the industry, though Mr. Tortorici wouldn't discuss specifics.

Though he wouldn't address particular brands or categories, he mentioned that he will be "targeting to expand the number of categoeies present by widening target and socioeconomic strata."

As Hispanic TV grows as a market, Mr. Tortorici says it's increasingly important for him to widen his net.

"That's going to be an important step for us as we grow out from here," says Mr. Tortorici.

Admitting last year's line-up changes "might have been a little ambitious," the new network line-up will likely include a variety of genres that will seek "balance for the existing audience," he says.

Original production movies and novelas will reflect the U.S. Hispanic lifestyle, and more half-hour comedies likely will find a place in the line-up, he says.

Telemundo will become "very aggressive" in novelas -- which has been Univision's staple. He declined to discuss whether action series such as "Angeles" or "Reyes y Rey," will continue airing.

"There's very little that we're not looking at," he says.

Hispanic agency executives welcome the change. While the programming from last year wasn't successful, and adapting older American police dramas for Hispanic audience "didn't work," the attempt to target the acculturated, bilingual Hispanic could eventually provide a new avenue for marketers targeting Hispanic viewers, says Ms. Gadsby.

"There is something out there to be developed that is not Univision's core

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