New landscape in Hispanic TV

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Telemundo's takeover by nbc is a good thing for the buyer, for the No. 2 Spanishlanguage network and for advertisers. General Electric Co.'s NBC gets entry into one of the few media sectors still growing in this economy, and Telemundo gets the backing of a broadcasting power. The result will be a stronger Telemundo that gives advertisers an alternative to dominant player Univision.

While Telemundo's sellers didn't get the $3 billion they wanted, the hefty $2 billion (and $700 million debt assumption) offered by GE still provides evidence of the value now assigned to the U.S. Hispanic market. Advertising spending on Spanish-language TV networks grew 11.6% in the first half while the overall ad market slumped a depressing 5.9%, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. The Spanish-language TV upfront market this year showed healthy growth while the upfront skidded for English-language TV nets.

Spanish-language media are becoming part of the U.S. media mainstream. Just as it made sense for CBS owner Viacom to buy black media powerhouse BET Holdings in January, it makes sense for big general-market media companies to have Spanish media in their portfolios. Such properties are a logical extension of any cross-media package and should give acquired multicultural media better access to advertisers, talent, technology and produc- tion resources.

This acquisition brings much-needed diversification to NBC, which lacks the breadth of media options assembled by rivals such as Walt Disney Co. and Viacom. To be sure, GE still eventually might unload its TV business, which it bought with its $6 billion purchase of NBC parent RCA Corp. in 1986. But regardless of GE's involvement, NBC/Telemun-do can be a solid long-term combination.

The merger will further the slide toward media ownership consolidation. But Hispanic TV audiences, and the buying power they represent, deserve the benefits that major-league competition brings. If NBC is serious about making a splash in this market, and smart enough to deliver news and programming carefully tailored to Hispanic viewers, it could be the start of a more healthy, more competitive marketplace. M

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