Fox's Gamble on Cross-Culture Reality TV Could Be a Game-Changer

Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony Take Their Univision Show Mainstream, With Subtitles -- Will Viewers Follow?

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It will be no minor event for the marketing industry Saturday night when "Q'Viva The Chosen," the popular reality show on Univision, has its premiere on Fox -- presented in its original three languages (Spanish, English and Portuguese), with subtitles.

Monolingual audiences are notoriously subtitle-averse, so it's no wonder that network programming has never featured anything like "Q'Viva." This unusual sharing arrangement merits the attention of programmers and advertisers alike.

In terms of advertising, Blackberry and its Playbook Tablet are virtually stars of the show, getting substantial screen time and offering an array of interactive experiences for global "Q'Viva" fans online. The company will enjoy exposure across both networks. So will Kohl's, a "Q'Viva" sponsor with more than a casual interest in the image of the feuding but Sonny and Cher-like duo of Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony: Kohl's features both of the stars' spring clothing collections.

It will be interesting to see if any new sponsors join the program on Fox and in what language marketers will choose to speak to the Fox audience. I'm guessing there will be more than a few Spanish-language ads popping up on Fox's traditionally English-language airwaves.

Ironically, "Q'Viva" is filling the time slot of "Cops," one of the longest-running shows on English-language TV. For many Latino and black comics, "Cops" is the punchline of jokes satirizing ethnic representation on mainstream TV. I predict more than a few letters to Fox from hard-core "Cops" viewers when they learn that their precious time slot has been taken over by multimillionaires who both speak the "language of the ghetto" (to quote Newt Gingrich).

But this show was breaking old habits even on the Spanish-language network. For one thing, over the years Univision has proudly refused to run anything containing much English at all. In addition, Jennifer Lopez and, to some degree, Marc Anthony, fall into a segment of Latino celebrity talent who have much less to do with Spanish-language TV in the United States than with mainstream media. The cross onto Spanish-language airwaves from the mainstream is pretty uncommon. Finally, the show is notable for shining a positive spotlight on black Hispanics, whose appearance on Univision has been relatively rare.

"Q'Viva" isn't your average reality show in other important ways. It's about roots and respect. It's about finding and sharing Latin performance talent with the world as well as an invitation to join two star performers of Puerto Rican descent as they steep themselves in all that it means to be Latino. And regardless of what you think of J. Lo and Marc Anthony, as a couple or as artists, you would be hard-pressed to find more appropriate leaders for this cross-cultural journey. I would be remiss if I didn't include a shout out to choreographer Jamie King, who travels with the stars in search of talent in 20 countries. It's a legacy piece for the stars' children and a real love letter to the Latino community.

During a week in which Time magazine's cover reads "Yo Decido," I am crossing my fingers and hoping that Latinos and non-Latinos alike tune in to "Q'Viva." While its popularity on Univision is important and impressive, the show's success on English-language TV could be a game changer. Strong ratings on Fox will signal that non-Latinos, as well as those often described as "assimilated Latinos," got the message and that this is not just a passion project that preaches to the choir. Although it's important to remember, there's nothing wrong with the choir.

Rochelle Newman-Carrasco is chief Hispanic marketing strategist for Walton-Isaacson, Los Angeles, Calif. She has also served on several boards of directors including the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors, The Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies and the Los Angeles Association of Advertising Agencies.
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