Spanish-Language TV Upfront Wraps Up

Univision Up 3% Thanks to World Cup; Telemundo Flat

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NEW YORK ( -- Spanish-language TV appears to have survived this year's upfront market in better shape than many other TV outlets, a surprising development given the difficult economy.

Univision was able to secure approximately $1.24 billion in advertiser commitments in this year's upfront market, a 3% increase from last year's total of around $1.2 billion. NBC Universal's Telemundo, meanwhile, says it saw flat upfront volume this year, while declining to give specific figures.

That's not to say the outlets didn't have challenges. Media buyers suggest Spanish-language TV outlets discounted prices during upfront haggling, and portray a marketplace in which the costs of reaching 1,000 people, otherwise known as a CPM, were off by low-single-digit percentages. Even so, Univision's coming broadcast of the World Cup games helped lure ad dollars that might not normally have come in the door, these buyers said.

The trends suggest the Spanish-language marketplace has more buoyancy in tough times than more mature platforms such as cable and broadcast. "I don't think their marketplace in general suffered to the same degree that the overall marketplace did," said Chris Geraci, managing director-national broadcast, at Omnicom Group's OMD.

At Univision, marketers from such categories as beverages, consumer-packaged goods, and telecommunications and quick-service restaurants helped drive commitments, said David Lawenda, Univision's president-ad sales and marketing. He said the network sold 75% of its inventory in the upfront, the typical amount (the English-language broadcast networks typically sell about 70% to 80% each year, but this year held back as much as 15% to sell later in the season).

"We're on this mission to educate marketers on the value of Hispanic and get them to spend more with us, and in many cases, to get new advertisers. We've got to make sure we have inventory," Mr. Lawenda said.

At Telemundo, executives saw year-over-year volume growth on returning business, said Jacqueline Hernandez, the network's chief operating officer.

Buyers suggested interest in Spanish-language broadcast is being fueled by a mix of clients familiar with the medium increasing their spending and new advertisers. "Over the past two years, there might have been a more stable amount of demand and spending," said OMD's Mr. Geraci. "We've got fairly mature clients in this space who have been doing this for a while, but I don't know that there aren't others for whom the Hispanic consumer is something that's perhaps only recently been recognized as a place to go."

Also proving helpful during the upfront was the fact that advertisers have fewer places over which to spread their dollars, suggested Shari Cohen, co-executive director at WPP Group's MindShare. While auto and financial advertisers, among the most troubled in this recession, have many different places to go when it comes to seeking English-language viewers, there are fewer U.S.-based Spanish-language options, she said. What's more, more advertisers "have perhaps underspent in the market," so there is potential to see some spend on Spanish-language "going up," she added.

The trend will no doubt be welcomed by executives at Spanish-language media outlets. Over the first half of 2009, ad spending on Spanish-language TV -- measured across four broadcast networks, four cable networks and 71 local TV stations -- was off by 12.7%, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Ad spending on Spanish-language TV was up 0.1% in 2008, according to TNS. While spending trends have moved in tandem with the uncertain financial picture, there have been some reasons for optimism: General Mills upped its Hispanic media budget 121% to $26.4 million in the first half of 2009, jumping from near the bottom of the top 50 Hispanic marketers almost into the top 10.

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