For some reason, every Spanish-language network seems to want the same thing for Christmas: a rethink.
NBCUniversal's growing broadcast network Telemundo, Univision's smaller broadcast network Telefutura (now UniMas) and even CNN are undergoing major changes this winter—the first two have unveiled full-blown rebrands, while CNN is piloting a Spanish-language programming block in Los Angeles.
All three are working hard at making sure their programming targets U.S. Hispanics, especially the ever-growing contingent of bilingual Americans in the second and third generations who aren't necessarily looking for programming that reminds them of life outside the United States.
It's a trickier proposition than many neophyte marketers and distributors imagined. SNL Kagan estimated earlier this year that Spanish-language digital TV availability doubled between 2011 and 2012—there are now fully 216 Spanish multicast channels, so the competition is fierce. And of course, the political season proved definitively that it's not enough to just crank out Spanish-language versions of spots that target middle-aged Caucasians. If an advertiser can't demonstrate to the Hispanic audience a sufficient understanding of the culture, he ends up spending nearly $400 million to no effect whatsoever. (We're looking at you, Karl Rove.)
And yet, the growth of the demographic continues to astound. "We saw it in the census, and we've seen it in experience, and we've seen it in recent elections," said Jackie Hernández, COO of Telemundo. "We want to be the network that celebrates that."
The network's rebrand launches today, with its new logo slathered all over Telemundo content on every platform, and a new campaign featuring fully 90 of the network's performers shot over the course of just a few days. And, just as Tr3s, UniMas and Mun2 trade on puns, the new "T" (pronounced "te") logo will create its share of multiple double entendres ("te informa," "te inspira"—it's also the informal "you," so there's some presumed intimacy there, too).
"We did a lot of research on our viewers, and they said they wanted us to be more modern and bold," Hernández said. On Monday, Telemundo Media president Emilio Romano will ring the opening bell at the Nasdaq—NBCU's popular morning show Today will cover as well—and there will be a live performance in Times Square.
But it's not the only network that's changing gears. Telefutura has changed its name to UniMas and has a healthy slate of programming to back up its new brand. The network will air action novelas Made in Cartagena and Quien Eres Tu, and boxing drama Cloroforma. It's also doubling down on sports programming, with a slew of FIFA games and the 2014 World Cup (although NBCU has the all-important Spanish-language rights to the next championship game in 2018). The company's cable network, Galavision, also rebranded this year.
Cesar Conde, president of the Univision Networks, said that UniMas would be relying primarily on RTI and Caracol for its programming (both based elsewhere in the Americas), but that its U.S.-based studio would be producing "primarily reality" for the network in the near future. Competitors are quick to criticize Univision and Telefutura for relying heavily on foreign product when the demographic content of the U.S. is changing so rapidly, but thus far, you can't argue with results. Univision's market share is huge, and the company's increased investment in the newly rebranded UniMas would suggest that it's not exactly resting on its laurels. "We want to be the No. 2 Spanish-language network in the world," Conde said with a smile.
CNN's rebrand is a little softer, though it does mark the first major change overseen by new head Jeff Zucker, who will take over at the end of the year. The network is launching CNN Latino in the U.S., starting in Los Angeles next month. The network has a huge international component, of course, and it will repurpose much of that content for the large Hispanic population in L.A. alongside a locally produced debate show. It already has CNN en Espanol. But now, it's going to experiment with a broadcast block on local station KBEH, where it will show eight hours a day of content geared to appeal to U.S. Hispanics. "The U.S. market is so diverse and so large that there is room for two distinctive content options," said Cynthia Hudson-Fernández, svp, gm of CNN en Espanol.
L.A. also presents a unique opportunity. Besides a rare foray into domestic broadcast for the cable network, KBEH also covers 14 million viewers' worth of territory—CNN en Espanol has about 30 million viewers on cable, so a few choice broadcast locations could increase CNN's Hispanic presence by quite a bit.
Hudson-Fernández said she wanted the network to represent "the dual reality of U.S. Latinos today who are multigenerational and proud to be bilingual" in a statement, and in the end, that's what all these rebrands are about: finding commonalities among a demographic that is turning out to be as diverse as the U.S. itself.