YupiMSN, a Hispanic site acquired last year jointly by Microsoft Corp. and Mexican telecommunications giant Telmex, claims success in inking deals with advertisers by terming its broadband offering "YupiTV" and emphasizing its broadcastlike programming vs. calling it an Internet site, says George Levy, director of integration for the Miami-based operation.
On its site, YupiTV offers streaming video and live Web coverage, including exclusive content from Mexico's fast-growing Zoom.TV site (zoom.tv), which includes several TV-like "series" developed for hip, young, technologically savvy Hispanics. Among Zoom.TV offerings are several reality programs "spying" with live Web cameras, microphones and "tapped" telephone lines on the shows' young participants. Since forming an alliance in October with Zoom.TV (not to be confused with the Public Broadcasting Service kids show "ZOOM"), YupiTV claims more than 17 million unique visitors per month, says Mr. Levy. YupiMSN is promoted through Microsoft's network of sites, including the MSN.com portal.
"We have streaming video programming that looks and acts very much like TV, and by calling the Internet offering TV, we're getting access to TV budgets when pure Internet advertising budgets are frozen," he says.
Sponsors include Sears, Roebuck & Co.; Intel Corp.; and Hy Cite Corp.'s Royal Prestige cookware line.
Royal Prestige racked up 6,000 sales leads in one month in the fourth quarter, and plans to continue its sponsorship at least through the first half of this year, says Rita Congdon, a spokeswoman for the Madison, Wis.-based company.
YupiTV's advantage is its ability to provide edgy content created for young, Spanish-speaking U.S. Hispanics in a landscape devoid of such programming on TV or the Internet, say media industry observers.
ENTERING PHASE TWO
"We are entering what we might call phase two of Internet content for Hispanics, with programming that was created for young, hip audiences vs. the kind of generic Hispanic Web sites that got attention-and faded-a few years ago," says Leon Potasinski, senior VP-marketing services for Los Angeles-based La Agencia de Orci.
General Hispanic Internet content has taken a beating recently along with the rest of the Web. In 2001, Univision shuttered Ask Jeeves en Espanol, a joint venture with search engine Ask Jeeves. Spanish-language search engine Pregunta also closed, while Spanish- and Portuguese-language portal StarMedia Networks has struggled to stay afloat.
Despite U.S. Census numbers showing rapid growth of Hispanic audiences, U.S. TV executives say it's too soon to develop Latino-targeted TV programs for the U.S. Instead, Hispanic TV networks like Univision and Telemundo are relying on general-audience movies and soap operas generally created in Mexico, plus local U.S. news, entertainment and sports programming. Some original programming is in the works for Univision Communications' recently launched Telefutura network, which hopes to cash in a greater share of the U.S. Hispanic population, which the census figures at 35.3 million. It hopes to attract young male viewers with original music shows such as the "The Pepsi Chart," backed by PepsiCo's Pepsi-Cola Co., as well as movies and sport events.
"The Hispanic audience is certainly growing, but it's still only 11% of the total and that's not broad enough for developing syndicated TV programming," says Joanne Burns, senior VP-research and marketing for News Corp.'s Twentieth Television.
Mr. Levy believes the Internet is more likely to hook young Hispanics than broadcast TV, and he envisions a future where this audience tunes into "TV" from wireless devices that broadcast streaming video programs targeted to them.
Executives at La Agencia de Orci aren't so sure.
"I'm glad to see that companies as big as Microsoft recognize there is a big future in targeting Hispanics, and Hispanics are certainly fascinated by the notion of watching TV online," says Roberto Santiago, interactive marketing manager for La Agencia. "The Internet needs to perfect the wired world before it goes wireless, and I think YupiMSN is being a bit overoptimistic if it expects widespread numbers of young Hispanics to be watching TV on the Internet through hand-held appliances. But we are definitely seeing some interesting evolution of content."