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Television Fragmentation Continues, Hispanics Are To Blame

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If you want proof that the growing Hispanic population and its impact will change the way people experience popular culture in a colossal and immediate way - look no further than the big changes happening at the nation's biggest media players. New details about Hispanic-targeted television networks and programming are being released daily - and in the midst of the 2013 upfront season, when networks showcase their new and returning programming, it's encouraging to see these changes. There is an influx of changes and additions leading to an unprecedented fragmentation in a space that has experienced sporadic "newness" since its inception.

This week Walt Disney Co. and Univision Communications Inc. announced they will create the first-ever 24-hour cable-news channel that will broadcast in English, in an effort to reach a new audience. It's one of many examples of big players in the television industry seizing the opportunity that exists within the Hispanic market, and it will be interesting to how an alliance with ABC will boost the Univision brand.

Other examples of big players embracing the Hispanic market: News Corp. (Fox) revealed it was partnering with Colombian programmer RCN to form a new Spanish-language broadcast network in the U.S. called MundoFox in an attempt to fill the gap in Latino entertainment in the U.S. offering quality content and differentiation from the options currently available. If Fox takes on the same approach they took in the General Market with new programming and formats while continuously pushing the envelope, what is certain is that the Hispanic Television landscape will be forever changed. Only six weeks after the news was publicized, MundoFox announced their TV station line-up securing affiliates in 20 DMAs and are confident they will exceed their original goal of securing distribution in 75 percent of U.S. Hispanic households by the Fall launch.

Univision also recently made headlines when it announced that Dish Network was the first operator that agreed to carry the sports, news and telenovela Spanish-language networks as part of a package targeting Hispanics. Univision is currently speaking with other providers and plans on securing other deals soon.

But when it comes to Hispanic viewing patterns, it's important to remember this point: that 75 percent of Hispanics consume media in both Spanish and English. While there are many ways to explain this data, including existing Spanish programming not being appealing to all Hispanics (including myself), programmers in both languages are paying close attention to this detail and are making changes to stay relevant especially among English-speaking Hispanics without alienating their core audience.

In October 2011, Telemundo announced a new strategy that would feature English-language subtitles and Spanglish within top programming. In January 2012, Univision would follow the same strategy, meaning that both Spanish-language network giants are not only expanding their audience to English-dominant Hispanics, but potentially to the General Market as well.

The opposite strategy is also being tested where Fox began airing "Q'Viva", a talent reality show produced by and aired originally on Univision. These types of reality talent programming traditionally have performed well in both languages. However, if "Q'Viva" proves successful, it could be the start of many more cross-over risks being taken where Spanish programming will air on an English networks with subtitles and perhaps more adaptations like the successful Betty la Fea that aired on ABC (originally a Colombian telenovela produced in part by new Fox partner RCN that aired on the Univision network - Telefutura).

It's also been published that for its NBCUniversal deal commitment, Comcast would launch 10 new independently owned-and-operated networks over the next eight years.

Of the 10 networks, four will be majority African-American-owned, two will be majority American Latino-owned, two will be operated by American Latino programmers and two will provide additional independent programming. We now know that both, El Rey Network and BabyFirst Americas are mostly targeting the U.S.-born, acculturated, second -and third- generation Hispanics. El Rey will be positioned as an entertainment network and BabyFirst Americas for infants, young children and their parents, all to develop early verbal, math and motor skills.

These changes indicate that these network giants understand not only the importance of reaching Hispanics in English, but also the impact the growing Hispanic population will have on the General Market where the General Market will want to be exposed more to the Hispanic culture.

The increased competition within Hispanic-targeted television will force all networks regardless of language, to pay close attention to the changing landscape and potentially to undertake similar strategies.  The Hispanic market will no longer be considered "emerging" or separate from the General market.  Media and advertisers will start to think more closely about how to resonate with Hispanics which will definitely lead to Latinos seeing more representation of themselves in media across both languages.