What Shaky Economy? Hispanic Nets Bet Ad Growth Will Continue

Two Channels Will Make Their Upfront Debuts, While No. 2 Telemundo Will Join NBC's Event

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- This year there will be new faces in the Hispanic TV upfront, including young channels Mega TV and V-me, and a few absentees, such as No. 2 Spanish-language network Telemundo. Then there's market leader Univision, roaring into the upfront to lure marketers in a shaky economy with the confident theme "Univision equals your growth engine."
Florida-based newcomer MegaTV is aiming to go national.
Florida-based newcomer MegaTV is aiming to go national.

"We're going to build on that theme of the strong connection we have with our consumers," said David Lawenda, president-ad sales at Univision Communications.

Univision and other Hispanic broadcasters are betting their market will continue to grow, if much more slowly than the double-digit gains of recent years. Last week Nielsen announced that ad spending on Spanish-language TV grew 1.5% in 2007 and fell the same percentage on English-language network TV. A week earlier, TNS Media Intelligence reported measured ad spending on Spanish-language TV up by 1.3% to $4.4 billion in 2007, while English-language-network-TV ad revenue fell 2%.

Following the example of parent NBC Universal, Telemundo is skipping the big upfront presentation that drew an audience of close to 1,000 last year at Radio City Music Hall. Instead, Telemundo will participate in NBC's upfront event May 12 and is stepping up its own pre-upfront client-development meetings, which used to be held in Miami. This year, the network's top execs are flying to visit clients and agencies in Los Angeles, Dallas, New York, Chicago and elsewhere.

"Our top 20 advertisers have seen the programming," said Mike Rodriguez, senior VP-sales at Telemundo. "The [writers] strike made us take a step back and think about it, and we realize this is a better play for us."

Ascendant V-me
Other Hispanic channels are preparing for their first upfronts. Spanish-language digital channel V-me is piggybacking on Univision's glitzy must-attend upfront May 14 by holding its own presentation immediately before at the Samsung Experience showroom in the same Time Warner complex. Partnering with public broadcasters, V-me made its debut last year without winning much attention but is likely to gain momentum as it reaches more Hispanic households. A distribution deal with the Dish satellite network helped take V-me from 20% of Hispanic households a year ago to just under 50% now, and that will leap to about 80% when broadcasting goes digital in February 2009.

"A lot of agencies and advertisers don't know we exist yet," said Frank Donaldson, who recently joined V-me as senior VP-director of sales.

V-me will promote new thematic weeknights -- a marketer can own miniseries Mondays or sports Tuesdays -- as well as a weekly news magazine with The New York Times called Páginas The New York Times.

Mega TV, a Florida TV channel started in March 2006 by leading radio network Spanish Broadcasting System, is doing its first upfront early, on April 24, as part of an effort to go national. A deal with DirectTV in October 2007 added that satellite-TV system's 1.2 million Hispanic subscribers.

Product integration
Mega TV will present its first weekly drama series, launching in the fall, and a Sunday-night music show sponsored by Volkswagen, said Cynthia Hudson, exec VP of SBS and chief creative officer and managing director of Mega TV.

English-language Hispanic channel SíTV is skipping an upfront to tout series such as "Jammin," which finds new bands, and "Model Latina." Both are reality shows packed with product integration.

"For us it works better to take the show on the road," said SíTV CEO Michael Schwimmer.
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