April 13, 2008

NBC has seen the Spanish writing on the wall. And while others might see a threat, or a niche that will fade away, the network sees the future - and fat profits.Last month, the peacock network announced it was selling off its owned & operated English-language station in South Florida, WTVJ-Channel 6. But it said it wasn't including its Spanish-language sister station, WSCV-Channel 51, in the deal.

The Spanish-language station, it said, is not for sale.

How can it be? Cutting loose a Big Three affiliate and keeping an O&O of the perennially second-place Spanish network Telemundo?

The truth is that NBC, which owns Telemundo, is making a brilliant move. It recognizes where the growth is, and isn't.

English-language networks have seen their viewership shrinking for years. This year, hammered by a stalled season of shows because of the writers' strike, it's even worse.

Viewership for all of the Big Three networks is down compared to the year before. ABC is doing best, if you can call it that, with a 7.6 percent decline. NBC comes in at second with a 10.95 percent drop. And CBS is bringing up the rear with a dismal 19.87 percent drop from the '06-'07 season.

Making matters worse for the nets, a tanking economy and questions about the value of television spots in an age of TiVo and the Internet has advertisers holding back on spending. Network ad spending dropped 2 percent from the year before. But that was almost good news compared to spot buys: that dropped 10.2 percent last year compared to 2006.

But there's one television category that's not losing viewers: Spanish. In fact, while it's English-language counterparts have seen their viewers disappearing faster than rabbits in a Vegas magic act, Spanish-language television has been gaining viewers and advertising revenue.

In 2007, advertisers spent 1.5 percent more on Spanish-language TV than they did the year before.

It's all a function of national demographics - and it's only going to become more pronounced in the years ahead. And of course we all know that Hispanics are the fastest growing demographic in the nation, increasing three times faster than the rest of the country.

And while the folks at Telemundo sometimes are there own worst enemy as they recently showed by canceling their New York up front (someone forgot, that all sales and no schmooze is a great way to lose) or by the recent naming of a total outsider as their new COO (insiders are disappointed and dumb-founded) at least they have a parent company that gets it.

Comments

Wow. Jose's columns are right on the money. I always enjoy his insight. With the right strategy perhaps Telemundo could come out ahead, but not without first deploying an interactive, comprehensive, and easily navigable website. I recently visited their site and was overwhelmingly disspaointed. Just a side note.

Jose --- I am dumbfounded as to how you see Jackie as "a total outsider." Jackie is one of the most respected members of the media industry in the marketplace. If you speak to any agency person that has even had the most minimal contact with Jackie, you will hear nothing but glowing remarks. She took People from the middle of the pack to a leadership position not only among magazines but among all Hispanic media. She is a tremendous leader and a class act, a combination that is very difficult to find. I look forward to seeing her success continue in her new endeavor and am confident we will see her take Telemundo and, by consequence, the market to new heights.

I agree whole heartedly with Rick on Jackie's appointment. Moreover, Telemundo should be commended for re-inventing the archaic upfront practice. Their one-on-one development meetings have proven a much more productive way to have a dialogue, ensure clients understand where the network is heading and ensure the network hears first hand what matters to clients. Schoomzing does not drive sales, strategic partnerships do.

Publisher and Broadcaster are not even distant cousins...Learning curve will take a solid two years...Plenty of internal candidates both at Telemundo and at NBC who could have hit the ground running...Regional development meetings are fantastic, but they do not replace the importance of NY upfront...Un abrazo...Jose...

The issue might be more a question of levels of competitiveness for the English language affiliate and as Jose mentions the "reality" that this market has greater need and potential for a Spanish language station. How much room is there for English language media in a market where almost half the population is Hispanic. Clearly Spanish language media in a market like Florida is dominant, but that won't always translate to all markets in the U.S. where such skewed percentages do not exist. We should be careful not to assume this will be a national trend. As for the upfronts, maybe they just realized that too many print reps where sneaking in...:-) If they resume these "schmooze fests" Jackie might be able to spot them before they sneak in.

There is also a difference in building a brand with no major competitor. I do not know ms Hernandez personally, but I think she had it easy with the magazine. That is, People magazine has no major competitor, unless you consider TV & Novelas. Telemundo has Univision infront of it. Good Luck.

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