"There's a huge audience out there that wants to see people on television that look and live their lives like they do. We're happy to accommodate them." That's how Steve Koonin, president of Turner Networks, talked about his TBS cable channel to the New York Times. The question is, and as Kooin alluded to in that NY Times article about TBS, will the other English-language broadcast networks react?
Chances are that the other networks, especially NBC, will continue to bring to life Einstein's definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That means the sky's the limit for TBS.
TBS made headlines recently, of course, by signing up Conan O'Brien to a new late-night gig. But it clearly has made a name for itself on the diversity front, namely with Tyler Perry sitcoms and with George Lopez's late night show "Lopez Tonight."
I don't know Mr. Koonin but folks who have worked with him have told me that besides being a virtual PT Barnam of cable TV, he operates like he's on a mission from God. And this mission centers on serving America's youth. And as Koonin tells the NY Times, "diversity drives young people to us."
As any good marketer knows, Latinos over index on the youth front, so Koonin knows that if he's to succeed with youth he has to include Latinos and Latino-relevant programming on his network. George Lopez is just the start.
TBS and Koonin also seemed to have uncovered the other nugget about American youth: it's not that youth champion diversity, they live and breath it--it's in their DNA. In other words, showing Latinos among African-Americans, Anglos and Asians is a given for this consumer demo. Long before the Telemundo-Starcom study was released young Latinos were evolving with a dual sensibility: longing for media to celebrate their Latino culture while simultaneously making them feel like a part of the larger community.
Today's youth live in a different world. As BET CEO Debra Lee once told an industry audience: "it was we adults who made a big deal about an African-American getting elected President because my daughter and her generation were so beyond that." "Lopez Tonight" garners the youngest audience of any late-night TV show, so it's not surprising that it garners a very diverse audience--32% Hispanic and 26% African-American.
And this is where the likes of a Univision, in its quest for more young viewers, has its work cut out. With its history of imported telenovelas that painted a lily-white picture of things Latin, Univision will have an uphill battle. As our Dominicano friends have shown us, platanos don't just come in yellow. And it seems people like Koonin are seeing this and chomping at the bit to grow their audiences.