Gadsby: Digital TV redrawing map

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Acknowledged Hispanic marketing expert Monica Gadsby of Publicis Groupe's Tapestry was asked by Advertising Age to look ahead to where Hispanic TV is heading and how it will change.

Ten years ago I could not have imagined many of the evolutions we are witnessing in Hispanic media today. There are signs we can identify that give us a glimpse into where our world may be in five or 10 years.

Of all trends, digital TV will have the most significant impact in reshaping the way we think about U.S. Hispanic TV.

Today, digital cable is available in about 25% of total U.S. homes and 16% of U.S. Hispanic homes. By 2010, it is predicted that all cable access in the U.S. will be digital. This will significantly increase the number of channel choices available to consumers and, in turn, will allow for many new networks catering to Hispanic interests to flourish.

Similar to the progressive shift in viewership we witnessed in the general market with the onset of analog cable, we will see Hispanic viewers spending more time with a larger variety of targeted options.

The digitalization of cable should lead to programming geared to Hispanics of different countries of origin, while broadcast options continue to cater primarily to the Mexican majority. Finally, the digital explosion should put an end to the heated debate about Spanish vs. English, as it will allow both options to grow with different programs and channels focusing on different segments of the market from the most Spanish-dominant to the most English-dominant.

Today, there are 20 networks already targeting Hispanic viewers on digital cable. I expect their number will grow five-fold in the next 10 years.

The growth of digital cable will also improve Hispanic advertising efficiencies and level the playing field, allowing for more efficient alternatives that can balance out the more expensive Hispanic broadcast cost-per-thousand rates.

The digital expansion will also allow giant media companies such as Viacom and Walt Disney Co. to play in the Hispanic space ... through targeted digital-tier offers.

English-Language Options

With the growth in number of second-, third- and fourth-generation Hispanics born in the U.S., we will see more TV programs catering to Hispanics in English. Multiple research studies confirm that there are strong elements of the Hispanic culture families are seeking to preserve through the generations. And it is no secret that we all like to see ourselves in the dramas and comedies we follow. English-dominant Hispanic viewers will see more of themselves on TV.

This will happen on two fronts. First as mentioned already, via the digitalization of cable. Just as prominent, however, will be the Latinization of so-called mainstream TV. We will see more shows like ABC's "The George Lopez Show." We will also see more Hispanic lead characters on the comedies, dramas and reality programs that will top the general-market charts, both on broadcast and cable.

This, in turn, will make the job of Hispanic media planners more complex. Eventually, it will also mean the demise of "general market" and the birth of the new "total market."

In the world of broadcast TV, expect Univision to continue to deliver the lion's share. With a proven formula that appeals to the Spanish-dominant, primarily Mexican viewer and the prospect of a continued (if not strengthened) alliance with Televisa, it is unlikely that Univision will lose its lead to archrival Telemundo. In the years ahead, expect Univision to continue to focus on Televisa soap operas as the anchor to its success.

At the same time, expect the network to continue to perfect the balance between imported and made-in-the-U.S. programs. Univision has had tremendous success with yearly specials such as "Premios lo Nuestro" and "Premios Juventud," and will likely continue to invest in the production of similar events. It is also likely that Univision will seek to maintain its current lock on the Spanish-dominant, Mexican sports aficionado through the renewal of key rights including Mexican League Soccer, Copa America, Copa Oro and FIFA's World Cup.

Univision's continued success will not, however, mean that Telemundo will fail. For at least the next five years, expect overall viewing levels of Spanish-language TV to continue to grow as immigration patterns continue to fuel the growth of the Spanish-dominant market.

a win within reach

Telemundo's numbers will go up, and the network may even have a share victory in a given month or daypart. Telemundo's performance will continue to be peppered with "hits and misses" as the network is forced to continue to take more risks than competitor Univision in trying to establish its own winning formula. Telemundo's U.S.-produced novelas have for the most part been great hits and will hopefully continue to do well as the network continues in its quest to lure recognized Mexican talent away from Televisa. But there will also likely be some "misses." Telemundo's first experience with live Olympic coverage this past summer was a "miss." It did, however, serve a significant purpose as learning grounds for the network.

Ten years ago, Univision was known as the "home of embedded content" with shows like "Sabado Gigante" and the creative ad screen crawlers featured during soccer program-ming. Interestingly, the network deliberately walked away from integrated sponsorships, limiting it to only a couple of programs on their air. Univision feared its image was suffering from two much ad integration.

Meanwhile, the reality trend emerged in the general market and along with it has come a barrage of embedded content advertisers love.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Monica Gadsby is CEO of Chicago-based Tapestry, the multicultural media division of Publicis Groupe. She was an Advertising Age Media Maven for 2004.

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