11/12/2013 10:05 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Great TV Just Got Greater

It's happened to everyone I know. You are flipping through the channels and come across a TV show in Spanish. In an instant you're hooked, even though the language is different. It can be something funny that grabs your attention or a hot and heavy scene with sexy actors that makes you stop clicking just to see what happens next. Or maybe it's the sportscaster vividly describing the action on the field that keeps you watching.

The fact is that just about everything about Spanish-language TV is different. Our morning shows are not the same as other English-language morning shows. Our News and Sports are also quite unique. It's not really about the language, however. It's about our culture. As a Hispanic media professional for the past 25 years, I can assure you that our Latin culture influences everything we do on TV -- from they way our talent looks to the way we cover news stories or the passion with which we do... well, everything.

That's why I was so happy to see The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) make history today when it announced that it was adding a total of nine new Spanish-language categories to the Daytime, Sports, and News & Documentary Emmy Award shows that recognize excellence in television industry in the United States.

Their timing couldn't have been better. This has truly been a historic year for the Spanish-language television industry. In July, for the first time ever, Univision Network became the #1 TV network viewed by U.S. Adults 18-49 and Adults 18-34 as measured by Nielsen ratings -- beating ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX in the most coveted demographic groups for U.S. advertisers. This is likely to continue to happen as Hispanics are projected to contribute 61 percent of the growth among Adults 18-49 from 2013 to 2023.

With a median age that is 12 years younger than the other U.S. broadcaster, it is easy to see why the Spanish-language media space continues to grow every year while other media sectors are shrinking. The Spanish media landscape today includes 6 U.S. broadcast networks and over 100 cable channels. Spanish-language media is also unique in another very important way in that it is the only ethnic-targeted media in a language other than English that has a national footprint. "American television is changing at a rapid pace driven by the growth of multicultural audiences who often speak more than one language," said Malachy Wienges, Chairman of The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS). "The Spanish-language media continues to grow exponentially each year and NATAS believes it is long-overdue that we recognize its excellence in our industry," he added.

The growth of Spanish-language media has been so dramatic in the past decade that just last year, over 800 Spanish-language entries were submitted to the Regional Emmy Awards contests, according the National Awards Committee Co-chair, Linda Giannecchini.

As a member of the NATAS Awards Committee, I had the privilege to work with Ms. Giannecchini to create a Spanish-language media task force that would help NATAS find the best way to recognize excellence in the Spanish-language television industry that has been in the United States for past 50 years. For the task force, we gathered a group of twelve senior executives who are themselves leaders in Spanish-language media and worked with them for more than one year to help NATAS better understand how Spanish-language media and audiences are different and why the Academy needed to create new Spanish-language categories to properly recognize some of the excellent programs created in Spanish for the U.S. television audiences.

As a result, three new Spanish-language categories will be added to each of the National Emmy® Award Shows that NATAS governs, which are the Daytime, Sports and News & Documentary Emmy Awards. The Primetime Emmy Awards are governed by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences based in LA.

The new Spanish-language categories are:

Daytime Emmy Awards:
Outstanding Morning Program in Spanish
Outstanding Entertainment Program in Spanish
Outstanding Daytime Talent in a Spanish Language Program

Sports Emmy Awards:
Outstanding Live Sports Coverage in Spanish
Outstanding Studio Show in Spanish
Outstanding On-Air Sports Talent in Spanish

News & Documentary Emmy Awards:
Outstanding Newscast or NewsMagazine In Spanish
Outstanding Coverage of a Breaking News Story in Spanish
Outstanding Investigative Journalism in Spanish

By adding new Spanish-language categories, NATAS is also inviting members of Spanish language media companies to become more active in their professional television industry organizations, which currently have 13,000 members, by becoming members of the new jury panels that will be in charge of judging these new categories or simply by becoming members of these great professional service organizations which will help us become better TV professionals.

Winning a National Emmy Award is, no doubt, the pinnacle of any TV professional's career. The new Spanish-language categories that will be handed out in 2014 not only give the Spanish-language media industry much needed visibility with our English-language peers, it will also properly recognize the work that thousands of Spanish-speaking TV professionals do every day in this country, making great American TV just a little bit greater.