TV Upfront

Timing of data annoys Hispanic agencies

Univision eager to implement Nielsen NTI numbers; key index due to disappear in 2007

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Every year, Spanish-language TV networks work hard to pry ad dollars away from their English-language rivals during the upfront, but this year a behind-the-scenes drama is playing out with all the passion of a telenovela.

The unlikely object of that passion: research. Everyone agrees that Nielsen Media Research's switch to measure Hispanic TV in the main National Television Index survey is a good move. The plan is to drop the separate National Hispanic Television Index in September 2007.

But timing has become a major issue. Leading Spanish-language network Univision is eager to use NTI data right away, with side-by-side comparisons with the English-language networks that Univision is increasingly taking on in ratings battles.

"It makes for an easy and favorable comparison," says Tom McGarrity, co-president of sales for Univision Network. "Now, when people pull up the top 10 networks, Univision's going to be in the top five."

"[With NTI] we're going to get raw ratings data but not in-depth data or language preferences, or reach and frequency curves or the depth of data we need to do in-depth analysis-Nielsen is telling us that will be in November," says Carl Kravetz, chairman-CEO of Cruz/Kravetz Ideas, Los Angeles, and chairman of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies. "There's pressure for us to use nonexistent tools for the upfront. The spigot was opened, but a transitional process was not built into this."

AHAA says it opposes the use of NTI for this year's upfront and has named a task force to monitor the process. Agencies are faced with either trying to switch to NTI or, the likeliest option, continuing to build their media plans using NHTI for this year's upfront.

"We can't plan off NHTI and buy off NTI," says Debra Nason, VP-director of media at Publicis Groupe's Bromley Communications, San Antonio. "It's too soon to use as the currency for the upfront."

Hispanic cable data aren't available at all yet in the NTI survey. Tom Maney, senior VP-ad sales at Fox Sports en Espa¤ol, says that adopting NTI before Hispanic cable is included "is the most ridiculous statement I ever heard." Cable's share of Spanish-language TV among adults has grown to 14.1%, he notes.

"I'm basing all ratings estimates and everything for 2007 off NHTI," Mr. Maney says.

With 10 Hispanic network TV, cable and even radio operators scheduled to make upfront presentations between May 15-18, another theme emerging is the rapid incorporation of online and wireless offerings. Fox Sports en Espa¤ol is offering cellphone users scores and highlights sponsored by Cingular Wireless and Ford Motor Co. from the Copa Libertadores soccer championship and will add video in the next year, Mr. Maney says. Gol TV, a bilingual soccer channel, is testing a digital platform for the upfront, including podcasts, soccer games streamed live on its Web site and content for mobile phones.

Telemundo is taking advantage of producing programming to find opportunities to create original content for its revamped Web site.
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