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Radio spreads out

By Published on .

The nation's growing and diverse Hispanic population has created new bonds between Spanish-language radio and national and local advertisers.

As the Latino community expands beyond metropolitan markets, new radio outlets have popped up to serve these listeners.

Las Vegas, for example, is home to nearly 250,000 Hispanics with a mean household income of $37,564, according to Strategy Research Corp.

There are currently 613 full-time commercial Spanish-language stations in the U.S., according to the M Street Journal, a trade publication covering the radio industry.

There are a number of reasons why Hispanic radio keeps growing, says Ilia Leon, associate media director for Young & Rubicam's Bravo Group, New York. "Format diversification allows advertisers to target specific audiences," she says. "Escalating TV costs [also] produced alternative media options, especially radio."

"We buy on cost per points, but we break even because the increased rates reflect growth within the marketplace," says Claudia Varela, senior media planner/buyer for Bravo. "It's a fair trade for an advertiser; there may be more out of pocket, but you're reaching more Hispanics with stations that are growing their audience." Bravo's clients include AT&T Corp., Sears, Roebuck & Co. and the U.S. Census Bureau.


P&G has been a longtime investor in Hispanic radio. Bromley Communications, San Antonio, handles P&G Hispanic ad buys.

"We find radio, with its various formats, works well in reaching teens," says a P&G spokeswoman. "The great thing about radio is you can do spot buying by region, which makes it an easy way to target your audience."

"Adding radio builds reach and affords frequency for the message," says Jessica Pantanini, VP-media director for Bromley. She says what makes Spanish-language radio different from other media "is its flexibility. It can be broad-based or niche-oriented. It also has the ability to do sub-ethnic buying much easier than other media."

The field is crowded. Major broadcast groups include: Hispanic Broadcasting Corp.; Spanish Broadcasting System; Entravision Communications Corp.; Mega Communications; Radio Unica; Liberman Broadcasting; El Dorado Communications; Sunburst Media; and Lotus Communications.

Kathleen Bohan, VP-research and marketing for Katz Hispanic Media, New York, says one reason for the increased awareness of Hispanic radio "is the proliferation of so many Latin music artists crossing over into the pop mainstream."

During the past decade, she says, there's been an explosion of Hispanic FM signals, citing 248 FM stations in 1999, focused primarily in 25 markets.

Clara Carneiro, VP-Latin American marketing radio station services in Arbitron's Dallas office, has observed the medium's growth.

Hispanic agencies have "faced internal battles for larger shares of the budget," Ms. Carneiro says. "As the Hispanic population continues to grow exponentially and the importance of dealing with the Hispanic consumer becomes a direct demand from advertisers, these battles will intensify."


Within the Hispanic market, teens are becoming an important listening audience, she says. "The share of teens listening to Hispanic radio has increased, from a 4.4 in the fall of 1998 to 5.2 [share] for spring 2000," she says.

Mac Tichenor Jr., chairman-president-CEO of HBC, sees the list of companies that "haven't taken the plunge in Hispanic radio [advertising] as unlimited." He admits ad rates for Latin stations aren't necessarily on par with general-market radio.

"It varies by market. In Houston, San Antonio and Chicago, there's parity. But that's not the case in New York and Los Angeles," he says.

He says he's expecting to see about $450 million for total Hispanic radio ad revenue this year, compared with HBC estimates of $420 million to $425 million for 1999.

One new revenue stream for HBC is its exclusive three-year contract to broadcast the Latin Grammys, which also airs on ABC TV.

HBC fare includes the weekly one-hour "A Tu Ritmo" (Your Music) music show. "It's the first youth-directed program airing on a national basis," says Mr. Tichenor.


"We're still fighting an uphill battle," says Carey Davis, VP-general manager of SBS' two New York stations, WSKQ-FM and WPAT-FM. "We often deal with the spectrum of rejection," he says.

"Companies will say they'll buy if we discount. Many dot-coms think that since they're an English-language Web site, why should they advertise on Spanish radio. Well, 70% of Hispanics in this market speak English" as well as Spanish.

WSKQ's a.m. show, "El Vacilon," which translates to mean "Good Times in the Morning," ranked No. 2 behind WXRK-FM's "Howard Stern" and costs $1,500 for a 60-second spot.

SBS, which three years ago bought 80% of La Musica.com, has associated with America Online to become its Latin music information provider.

Radio Unica "is the Univision of radio," boasts president Jose C. Cancela. The hosts of its daytime talk shows attract "a lot of people who normally wouldn't listen to talk radio, especially the 18-49 demographic. Normally, talk skews older, 25-54."

The network's programming is split 65% talk, 35% sports in the evening. Among its national marketers are AT&T Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Wal-Mart Stores.

Radio Unica, which aired the Olympics from Australia, has exclusive Spanish-language radio rights to the 2004 Summer Games.

The network has 18 minutes of commercials per hour, six for national accounts, 12 for spot and local. The average price for a 60-second unit in prime time is $3,000-$3,500, says Mr. Cancela.


Gary Stone, VP-general manager of Hispanic Broadcasting Los Angeles' five stations, says his rates have gone up "fairly dramatically." A spot on KSCA-FM's popular morning drive show hosted by Renan Almendarez Coello "goes for $2,000 for a 30-second unit," he says.

One of Hispanic radio's most enduring call letters is KWKW-AM, which began Spanish broadcasts in Los Angeles in 1941. Since 1962 it has been owned by Lotus Communications and has gained notoriety for its 20 years of covering the Dodgers.

"We attract an upscale audience of 25-54 for our coverage of baseball, soccer and the Lakers," says Jim Kalmenson, VP-general manager. "Baseball in Spanish," says Mr. Kalmenson, "is big business."

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