The network's popular Sunday night dramatic series "Angeles" began using English subtitles Jan. 31. The move followed positive viewer response to the use of subtitles on the entire 3-hour Saturday night lineup, starting in November.
COURTING BILINGUAL CROWD
The move is part of Telemundo's new strategy and format since being acquired by Sony Pictures Entertainment and Tele-Communications Inc.'s Liberty Media Corp. last year. The network wants to attract additional "acculturated" Hispanics. This emerging group of Latinos is fluent in both languages, moving easily in both cultures, and is often English-dominant.
Acculturated Hispanics have long been ignored in Spanish-language media, said Rachel Wells, exec VP-marketing with Telemundo Network Group.
"From an advertiser point of view, nobody addresses the acculturated and assimilated Latino," Ms. Wells said. "In the past, this group has been seen as an isolated, encapsulated group."
Rising ratings for "Angeles" since it began to carry subtitles "validates where we're going with our positioning," Ms. Wells said.
Telemundo isn't the only ethnically focused TV network using more subtitling. The International Channel has debuted a lineup of foreign films featuring English subtitles.
UNIVISION TO FOLLOW?
Whether Univision, the U.S.' top Spanish-language network, plans to follow the others is unknown; network executives didn't return calls.
Statistics indicate it could well be a good move. According to a 1998 edition of The McKinsey Quarterly, young, acculturated Hispanics represent 57% of the Hispanic market, and are growing by an annual rate of 11.9%. Almost 70% of U.S. Hispanics are under 35, the report noted.
"The acculturated segment represents the most attractive growth opportunity for most marketers," the publication noted.
Telemundo began using subtitles last November in San Antonio, then expanded later that month to the entire network, which reaches 85% of U.S. Hispanic households, said Peter Tortorici, CEO of Telemundo Network.
Since then, the network has seen a 200% increase in bilingual viewers, many of whom hadn't been watching the network previously, he said.
Telemundo is running radio spots touting its use of subtitles in top U.S. Hispanic markets, on both Spanish-language stations and "crossover" stations that broadcast in English. It also is looking to hit the crossover audience with spots airing on cable networks, Ms. Wells said. Telemundo created the advertising in-house.
`A GOOD EXPERIMENT'
Telemundo's move is "a good experiment," though the results remain unknown, said Tony Dieste, president of Dieste & Partners, a Dallas Hispanic shop with two clients slated to debut in the Saturday night lineup.
The subtitles will provide acculturated viewers comfort in viewing Spanish-language TV, added Edgar Cardoze, media director with Dieste. It will be interesting to track audience composition between the same programs-with and without subtitles. "Everybody's expecting the needle to move immediately," Mr. Cardoze said. "It's not like an RPM needle. It's more like a thermometer. It moves step by step."
So far, there have been no requests from advertisers to run English subtitles on their commercials, Ms. Wells said. And Telemundo isn't rushing to expand subtitles to more programming.