Teens under watchful eye

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Nearly one-third of the U.S. Hispanic population continues to be younger than 17 years old, and marketers are closely watching these trend-setting consumers who don't mind watching TV with mom and dad.

BILINGUAL GROUP

After reviewing the results of its new Kidscope study, Monica Gadsby, senior VP-director of Hispanic media for Starcom Worldwide, says the Hispanic breakout revealed a "growing group of teens who are bilingual and bicultural in their day-to-day lives and able to choose the best of what each world has to offer.

"They are very Hispanic in the way they are being brought up," she added. However, she notes that this emerging group is "also very American because of the influence of pop culture."

For example, Ms. Gadsby says, Hispanics under 20 in Los Angeles represent 58% of all area youth.

Strategy Research Corp. says 11.6 million of the 33.8 million U.S. Hispanic population is 17 or younger. About 24% of the youth are 11 or under. SRC predicts one out of every five U.S. residents will be Hispanic in 2020.

Starcom's Internet-based survey questioned 717 Hispanic teens 12 to 17 on a multitude of topics, including their TV habits.

As a group, they tend to watch general-market TV programs with their friends, but view Spanish-language TV with their families in the evening.

PRIME TIME

"It's usually during prime time," says Ms. Gadsby. "That's usually when the novela format is on in the evening."

Univision Communications says its prime-time share among Spanish-speaking teens age 12 to 17 is 86%, according to Nielsen Hispanic Television Index as of Aug. 14.

"The recent prime time novela `Sonadoras' was a huge success among teens and young adults," says a network executive. "The upcoming prime-time novela `Locura de Amor,' to debut mid-September, is also expected to be a success among Hispanic teens and young adults."

Univision says it also programs a weekend block for teens that includes "Control," a magazine format show, and "Caliente," a dance show.

PARENTAL GUIDANCE

Ms. Gadsby says it is not unusual for Hispanic teens to watch prime-time TV programs with their families.

"Hispanic teens are more likely than their general market counterparts to watch TV with their parents and talk to them about it," she says.

These young Hispanics also tend to focus on the viewing as part of family time and so are less likely to multitask and use the Internet or talk on the phone with friends, she adds.

MORE CAREFUL

She says one of the more surprising facts to surface in the survey is that Hispanic parents remain more restrictive about what their children are watching on TV.

"There is a bit of speculation in the marketplace about the novela genre," she says.

Some TV novelas are thought of as risque. One novela getting a lot of attention recently is Telemundo's big hit with the 18 to 49 group, "Xica," a Brazilian story about a 19th century slave who uses seduction to win her freedom.

BETTER TIERING

Ms. Gadsby says the Spanish-language networks have made a conscious attempt to tier such programming so the more suggestive content airs later in the evening.

The executive speculates that Hispanic parents may feel more comfortable allowing their children to watch Spanish-language novelas because they "perceive English-language TV as a threat, because they don't want to take a chance on content they are unfamiliar with.

"Maybe it's more the `The devil you know is better than the devil you don't,' "she concludes.

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