It’s no secret to anyone who sells anything that the buying power of the Latino demographic has surged significantly in recent years. Nowhere is this more apparent and measureable than in television media. Consider this: Despite lingering worries about Comcast-NBCU’s power, it was Spanish-language net Univision that in Feb just surpassed the once leading NBC broadcast network to become the nation’s 4th largest net—in any language. In fact, Univision was the number-one ranked network on Friday nights in Feb in the much-coveted 18-34 demographic. That’s right. It was number one. And it was the only broadcast net to actually grow (6%), even as ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC all posted audience declines.
 
It’s silly to think these trends are a broadcast phenomenon. They’re not. They signal serious demographic shifts in America, and ones that NAMIC highlighted last fall when UCLA prof Dr. Leobardo Estrada presented preliminary data suggesting that once ignored minority groups are now the biggest opportunity for growth. “There’s a new base,” he told us. “The ethnic market is becoming the general market… this has huge implications for marketing.” And no “ethnic” market has been growing as fast—with as much raw buying power—than the Latino population.  
 
What does this all mean for cable? Everything. Cable operators and programmers and scrambling to respond to this juggernaut with varied amounts of speed and success. Just this week, Comcast announced a Spanish-language version of its Xfinity TV authenticated online service, with its own Spanish-language entertainment portal. Comcast has already tripled the amount of Spanish VOD content and added scores of other Latino-focused programming in recent months. Sure, adding such fare is part of its Comcast-NBCU conditions—but really… does anyone think Comcast execs are complaining? Deal or not, approval or not, they would be adding a whole lot of Spanish-language content anyway. Other MSOs are also finding their Latin mojo, along with cable’s competitors, as the diversity of Latino content literally explodes. In Feb, DISH struck a carriage deal with Spanish-language BabyTV in its latest addition, and FIOS in the last couple months has added Television Dominicana, Supercanal, VeneMovies, Ritmoson Latino, Bandamax and tyC Sports to its already impressive list of 31 Spanish-language nets.
 
To be sure, this is all about the numbers: Spanish-language TV was really the first to come zooming out of the advertising gate following the dismal declines of 2009, boasting 24.2% growth in the 1st half of 2010. That, by the way, was nearly double overall cable’s 13% growth during the same period. Advertisers clearly see gold in them thar Latino hills, and the simple truth is that advertisers largely drive the kind of shows (and nets) that land in the multichannel universe. Any prospective showrunner pitching a concept that doesn’t appeal beyond the traditional Western-European demo simply faces a tougher road. Don’t know where to start? Then include more Latinos both in front of and behind those cameras, inside those writing rooms, within those marketing staffs and at the operational and strategic levels.
 
Today’s America would drive Don Draper to drink (even more). How difficult AMC’s fictional 1960s ad man would find navigating these 21st Century demographic waters. And that’s exactly why media execs stumped about how to create shows, service packages and other products that appeal to the rising wave of Latino buying power might want to get on the horn—and hire some people who know how to tap into it. It’s a matter of corporate opportunity and, perhaps in some cases, survival.
 
(Michael Grebb is executive editor of CableFAX).

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