Hispanic Networks Bring in Auto Dollars in a Weak Year for Broadcast

Telemundo and Univision write increases

This year, Univision and its main competitor Telemundo (which control roughly 90 percent of the market between them, with Univision the larger network) have seen upticks in categories that are declining in the general market, notably automotive.

Fragmentation has pulled tens of millions of viewers away from live broadcast television and into the worlds of cable, streaming and on-demand content, but one sector that seems to be weathering the storm better than most is Spanish-language and otherwise Hispanic-focused broadcast TV.

"We've got a couple of small things left, but we can see our way to the finish line," said Univision's president of ad sales and marketing, Keith Turner, at the end of last week. Granted, everybody's talking about how they're "almost there" with respect to upfront sales, but there's a key difference for Turner's outfit: "I think a year ago we were 10 percent done." Sources put the network up a surprising 15 percent in volume with 5-6 percent CPM increases.

Part of the uptick, says one source who has worked both in the network world and in auto advertising, is because the Hispanic population is growing, and with it, overall income and net worth. With that comes growth not merely in automotive but in durable goods and financial services—sectors that want to reach people who are choosing brands for the first time. There's a certain segment of the industry that is targeting people who are deciding between a new car and a used car; Hispanics over-index on used auto purchases, and with the shift toward new cars comes a huge windfall for the automotive sector, especially if a manufacturer can make a car affordable enough to tempt a consumer on the fence. (U.S. News' list of "Affordable Small Cars" runs 40 entries of current models under $20,000).

Univision also has the World Cup to boost sales this year—the net's last broadcast of the competition for a while, since NBCU has purchased the rights to the Spanish-language telecast of the next tournament for a princely $600 million. Still, it's a good haul for a network that is achieving in consensus what it's long had in pure math—a place at the table with the English-language nets. It doesn't hurt that Univision beat NBC in sweeps this February, either. "I think it's a recognition of the value of our audience," said Turner. "That's taken us some time, it's taken us a lot of education."

Telemundo, meanwhile, is leveraging its presence in the wider NBCUniversal pantheon of media properties to appeal to advertisers who want to place their Hispanic dollars with an audience, not necessarily a network. Many agencies are headed toward programmatic buying using sophisticated number-crunching, and NBCU is trying to provide them with the ability to look across multiple networks for their customers. Broadly speaking, the strategy has hit snags, sources have told Adweek, but Telemundo's evp of ad sales, Mike Rosen, said that he, too, is seeing upticks in key categories. All this while the general market falters.

Rosen said Telemundo has made inroads in auto as well, with Hispanic-heavy categories like telco and electronics, and into movies, where Hispanics heavily over-index. 

Of course, there is acculturation to consider. As U.S.-born Hispanics (the main focus of this kind of advertising) continue to raise families, second and third generations of Hispanic Americans are likely to become bilingual and English-dominant and seek cultural representation rather than linguistic familiarity. It's one of the reasons, for example, that Telemundo's sister network, Mun2, aired a show in Spanglish (RPM Miami), and that American Hispanic movie director Rob Rodriguez's flicks (from El Mariachi to Planet Terror) are popular in both the general and Hispanic markets. 

Other networks are sure that the boom in the Hispanic population will ultimately equalize ("They're just going to join the general market eventually," one ad sales head told Adweek), but the market may have to do a better job of meeting them halfway to grab that elusive viewer share. Shows with Hispanic characters like Modern Family may be popular, but not with Hispanics, and shows engineered to appeal to Hispanics, like ¡Rob!, have fallen flat. Instead, Hispanic viewers flock to Spanish-language TV, almost regardless of dominant language (English-dominant Hispanics prefer TV in English). Nielsen published a study last year itemizing the extreme differences between Hispanic and non-Hispanic consumers, and found that advertisers had spent 13 percent more on Spanish-language broadcast in 2012 than in 2011. On cable, the rate of growth doubled. Expect that trend to continue.