Spanish TV Eyes English Ad Budgets

Keach Hagey, Wall Street Journal, May 6, 2013

For the top four broadcast networks, which have endured a tough television season, the coming “upfront” advertising-sales negotiations for next season could be difficult. But for another of the majors, Univision, it may be a different story.

Propelled by the country’s rapidly growing Hispanic population, the Spanish-language broadcaster is the only one of the top five networks to have increased its prime-time viewership this season in the coveted 18-to-49-year-old demographic. Although it will likely end the season in fifth place, its audience in that age group is up 1% for the season to date, compared with declines of 3% for CBS Corp.’s CBS, 22% for News Corp.’s Fox, 7% for Comcast Corp.’s NBC and 9% for Walt Disney Co.’s ABC, according to Nielsen.

Univision has long dominated its market, drawing 58% of the Spanish-language prime-time audience in that demographic. But lately it has emerged as a more serious competitor to the big English-language networks, ad buyers say.

For the first time, Univision beat NBC in the 18-to-49 age group during the February “sweeps,” the crucial quarterly ratings periods that local stations use to set their advertising rates, according to Nielsen.

Univision executives say they plan to use this victory to help argue for a bigger share of TV ad dollars at its May 14 upfront. Spending on Spanish-language TV made up only about 8.2% of all TV-ad spending in 2012, according to Kantar Media. Yet Hispanics make up 17% of total viewers and 19% of 18-to-49-year-olds, according to Nielsen.

“Our messaging to the advertising community is, ‘Why would you continue to pay more for less on the English-language side, when the ratings on Univision continue to grow?’ ” said Univision Communications Inc. Chief Executive Randy Falco. “You can’t ignore this anymore. You’re on the wrong side of history if you do.”

Some advertisers agree. Ed Gold, the advertising director of insurer State Farm, a longtime Univision advertiser, says he expects the network’s victory over NBC in the sweeps will “have advertisers who haven’t been advertising in the Hispanic market stand up and take notice that this is a very large market, a very loyal market, and, to a certain extent, there is not as much fragmentation as there is in the English-language audience.”


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