Census gives boost to Hispanic nets

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With 2000 U.S. Census figures up and the economy down, Hispanic ad agency and media executives are having a hard time handicapping this year's upfront. * "There's some pretty good news for the Hispanic market right now," says Tony Dieste, president-CEO of Dieste & Partners, Dallas. But Monica Gadsby, senior VP-director of Hispanic media at Bcom3 Group's Starcom Worldwide, Chicago, counters, "We cannot escape the realities of the economy, so we're going to see a softer market than we've seen in the last five years."

The U.S. Hispanic population has hit 35.3 million, up 57.6% since 1990, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The news of the fast-growing population has agencies bullish on the prospects. Yet at the same time, a slowing U.S. economy has the general market seeing a slowdown in ad spending, and Hispanic agency executives wondering how the upfront market will play out this month.

Whether the census will also make TV networks more bullish-or the sluggish economy will make them more willing to negotiate on price-is anyone's call, says Jessica Pantanini, VP-media director with Bcom3's Bromley Communi-cations, San Antonio. Some Bromley clients see softness in the general ad market and are expecting "low to flat" cost-per-thousand increases in the Hispanic market, she says.

Last year, top Spanish-language network Univision posted upfront sales of $501 million, says David W. Miller, entertainment and media analyst with investment banker Sutra & Co. No. 2 Telemundo saw about $175 million in advance sales in 2000 but expects to do about 20% more this year, according to a Telemundo spokeswoman.

COULD BE STRONG

This upfront could be a strong market, given the number of advertisers that recently have experimented with Hispanic advertising, says Mr. Miller. That the general U.S. ad market is soft will not dampen marketers' interest in buying Hispanic upfront time, he suspects.

"The overall [general market] pie might be shrinking, but the pie within a pie representative of Hispanic media is expanding," Mr. Miller says. "Even though the general state of the scatter prices across general market networks has been lackluster over the last year, brand-centric nationally focused advertisers have dipped their toes in the [Hispanic] scatter market, and have been pleased with the result."

With more than 80% of the Hispanic viewing audience, Univision Communications will hold its upfront May 16 at Lincoln Center in New York. While as of press time the network hadn't finalized its content lineup, Tom McGarrity, co-president-network sales, promised no significant changes from the successful elements of current shows, such as "Sabado Gigante" and "Cristina." The network will announce six new novelas, or prime-time soap operas, some of which produced in the U.S. It will be selling the World Cup in 2002, and again in 2006.

The 2002 World Cup and the pending debut of Univision 2, a new network that's expected to kick off soon, could ripen Univision's offerings this week, Mr. McGarrity says. The stations composing Univision 2 will include 13 coming to the Hispanic broadcaster in a $1.1 billion deal negotiated with USA Broadcasting. Those stations were formerly operated by longtime TV mogul Barry Diller. Executives plan to sell the new network in this upfront and hope to have it broadcasting by next January.

MORE TO UNIVISION

The new network will complement the established Univision, bringing in more men, kids and teen-agers, Mr. McGarrity says. The content will target more acculturated Hispanics, meaning viewers who are comfortable in English and Spanish. Mr. McGarrity says this can be done without drawing viewers from Univision, rival Telemundo or other Spanish-language networks.

James McNamara, president-CEO of Telemundo Communi-cations Group-owned by Sony Corp. and Liberty Media Group-says the network was still finalizing its lineup as of press time, but says no significant shows would be dropped for its May 14 upfront offerings. The strong ratings success over the past year resulted from novelas in prime time, and sports, movies and comedies on the weekends, he says. Telemundo's top-rated shows to date include "Laura en America," Sunday movie "Cinemundo Premier" and novelas that run in prime time.

"The principles of that type of schedule will remain in place," Mr. McNamara says.

Telemundo, which was buffeted by ratings losses during the 1998-99 season when it experimented with knock-offs of '70s U.S. action shows, has built up a supply of programming after deals with Brazil's TV Globo, Mexico's Argos Comunicacion, and most recently Colombia's Caracol Television and RTI. That novela, comedy and reality fare is expected to make up part of Telemundo's upfront offerings.

For Azteca America, the upstart network from Mexico's TV Azteca and Pappas Telecasting, the buoyancy of the census outweighs the sluggishness of the economy, says Peter Chrisanthopoulos, president-chief operating officer for the network and spot sales & marketing. When Azteca America debuts in June, it hopes to be reaching 45% of the U.S. Hispanic audience with its 15 stations, he says. Already advertisers and agencies have shown interest in the new network, though he wouldn't name them.

Azteca America won't host a formal upfront, instead relying on meetings and mailings to inform media buyers about novelas, sports and news generated exclusively by parent TV Azteca.

Fox Sports World en Espanol will return to the upfront market May 15 with a variety of sports properties targeting men, says Tom Maney, VP-advertising sales. With reach into 2.2 million Hispanic households, the network will aim its soccer, boxing and baseball-intensive content at a different audience from other Hispanic networks, he says. Mr. Maney hopes to have heightened activity from the insurance, financial services, technology and automotive industries. Current core advertisers include Colgate-Palmolive Co., Miller Brewing Co. and Toyota Motor Sales USA. And he thanks the census.

"It woke Madison Avenue up," Mr. Maney says. Agencies "finally said, `It makes sense to serve this market."'

BASEBALL COVERAGE

Fox Sports World en Espanol just landed the 2001 World Series, including divisional playoffs and league championship series, in a deal with Fox Broadcasting (its parent, which has baseball rights). It will be sold in the upfront, though Major League Baseball Properties sponsors have first right for category exclusivity. "Baseball is the sport that really crosses over to the U.S. Hispanic community," Mr. Maney says.

ESPN Deportes "is an integral part of the overall ESPN ABC Sports sales portfolio" for the upfront season, says Ed Erhardt, president-customer marketing and sales at Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN ABC Sports. The executive says ESPN Deportes buyers include Valvoline and Anheuser-Busch Cos. A Spanish-language "SportsCenter," boxing, NFL football and baseball make up ESPN Deportes inventory.

YOUTH-ORIENTED

With roughly 70% of the U.S. Hispanic population under the age of 36 and with a median age of 26, one market that remains underserved has been the children's and youth market, says Lucia Ballas Traynor, general manager of Galavision, a younger-skewing network owned and operated by Univision. Galavision will return this year with a lineup targeting youths and sports fans, she says. The network will air Mexican soccer, and the World Cup under-17 and under-20 events. Galavision's "Lucha Libre" Mexican wrestling program will be expanded to include "Lucha Libre sin Limites," which she says will attract more bicultural youth.

Unlike Univision, Telemundo and most other networks, Galavision launches shows every quarter, and it will hold three upfront events in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas, Ms. Ballas Traynor says. Galavision relies heavily on English and "Spanglish," an English/Spanish hybrid ,to reach its audience, she says. Galavision's 2000-01 TV upfront was about $30 million, doubling what it did the year before.

Though other networks don't accept English-language advertising, Galavision reportedly is contemplating carrying such commercials in its predominantly English-language shows. Ms. Ballas Traynor would not confirm this move.

Such a move would better reflect the reality of a viewership that's increasingly bilingual and acculturated, says Ms. Pantanini, who will be looking to place such clients as Procter & Gamble Co., Western Union and Burger King Corp. into this year's upfront. "Hispanics speak English," she says.

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