Azteca's in the Running at Hispanic TV Upfront

Mexico's No. 2 Broadcaster Has Big Plans for U.S. Market

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NEW YORK ( -- While Spanish-language network Univision sees its main competition as the English-language networks, Azteca America just wants to be considered a contender against Univision and NBC Universal-owned Telemundo.
Azteca America, Mexico's No. 2 TV broadcaster, currently has 5% of the U.S. Hispanic audience, up from 2% just a year ago.
Azteca America, Mexico's No. 2 TV broadcaster, currently has 5% of the U.S. Hispanic audience, up from 2% just a year ago.

Upfront begins
Kicking off the Hispanic upfront last night at a presentation at the American Museum of Natural History, Adrian Steckel, who became president-CEO of Azteca America six months ago, pledged, "Our goal in the next 18 months is to get to a 10% share. We need you guys to believe in us."

Right now Azteca America has a 5% share of the U.S. Hispanic TV audience -- up from 2% a year or so ago, he said. On weekends, Azteca reaches 12% of the audience, "almost as much as Telemundo," Mr. Steckel said.

When TV Azteca, Mexico's No. 2 broadcaster, entered the U.S. Hispanic market five years ago, the network floundered. Univision cannily bought the TV stations Azteca hoped to build its U.S. network on, and Azteca had to launch with only a single channel in Los Angeles and coverage of just 16% of the U.S. Hispanic market. The company's business model -- to keep costs very low by recycling Azteca's Mexican shows and doing very little original programming for the U.S. market -- turned out to be a serious mistake.

Owns 45 stations
Luis Echarte, Azteca's chairman, said that Azteca America now has 45 stations and reaches more than 83% of the U.S. market geographically and 70% of Nielsen's coverage of the Hispanic population.

The company is also adding programming for the U.S. Hispanic market. Besides airing the popular "La Academia" show, Mexico's version of "American Idol," Azteca produced a U.S. Hispanic version called "Academia USA" featuring all-U.S. contestants, and is working on a second series. Azteca also started producing news out of Los Angeles in February and plans to start an early prime-time talk show in September, Mr. Steckel said.

Making frequent comparisons to his bigger rivals Univision and Telemundo, Carlos de la Garza, Azteca's head of sales and marketing, said, "We're flexible. Not like our competitors."

Product integration
He showed examples of product integration in programming by marketers such as General Motors Corp., L'Oreal, Clorox, JC Penney, Nissan, Tecate beer, McDonald's Corp., and Domino's pizza.

"We can do product integration like no other network," Mr. de la Garza said. "You name it, we're going to do it."

He also promised Hispanic agencies that they can work with Azteca using either the current Nielsen National Hispanic Television Index, which is being phased out to include Hispanic in the main National Television Index, or the NTI.

Echoing the network's slogan, Mr. de la Garza said, "Azteca America es tu casa."
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