So What’s the Deal: Do Hispanics Really Want High Quality Educational TV Programming or Are They Only a Novela and Sports TV Audience?

13 Apr 2007|Miguel Winebrenner

It depends on who you ask. There are two schools of thought on this:

1) Many (primarily broadcasters like Univision and Telemundo) contend that although research says Hispanics want educational programming- like documentaries, biographies, etc.- what they really watch are novelas, news and sports programming.

2) On the other hand, there are those who believe there is a Hispanic audience for educational programming, and that the reason Hispanics watch only news, novelas and sports is that this is the only type of programming offered to them, and that past attempts by broadcasters at delivering educational programming has been below par.

Where do you stand?

As a Spanish-language TV viewer myself, I tend to agree with the second school of thought. But, the opposition makes a strong argument: Hispanics, much like most of America they say, prefer to watch mindless TV. Moreover, they argue that the demographic that mostly watches Spanish-language TV (the less acculturated) does not share the same educational interests as the more acculturated (Bicultural and U.S. Dominant) Hispanics.

To refute their first point, sure most of the TV viewing audience is mainly attracted to entertainment which requires no level of educational prowess or curiosity (like American Idol in the general market, or novelas in the Hispanic market), but there are niche audiences that if catered to could provide a vehicle for more targeted communications. In the general market, there is an audience for golfers, travelers, foodies and others that garner excellent ad support and therefore high ROI. Although the Hispanic market is much smaller, it is growing at a rapid pace and these niche opportunities are beginning to emerge. Experts will agree that although reach is critical in marketing to Hispanics, so is quality.

With regard to the correlation between lower acculturation and high Spanish-language TV viewing, the Hispanic market evolution is also beginning to change that paradigm. For example, the Bicultural population is poised to be about 50% of the total Hispanic population in the next 15 years (right now it’s a quarter). The implication of this is that a higher proportion of Hispanics will not only be bilingual but they will also crave higher quality educational programming, similar to the programming offered in the general market.

Obviously I’m trying to make the point that TV for Hispanics needs to adapt to changing demographics and programming preferences. Does that mean that I advocate for the elimination of novelas? No. On the contrary, broadcasters and other content providers can’t ignore the fact that news, sports and novelas drive most of the viewership (and therefore ad support), but the premises of the overall argument for maintaining these as the sole form of content are changing- History Channel, kids programming in Spanish and many others are beginning to penetrate the market.

Regardless of where you stand on the debate, it is undeniable that Spanish-language broadcasters have a monopoly on Hispanic TV viewer eyeballs (maximum Univision) so there is no doubt that the three “sacred cows” (news, sports and novelas) will likely be a major part of the mix we see as viewers. But other content providers are beginning to innovate ways in which general entertainment TV can be synergized with high quality and more cerebral content. V-me is a great example. This new channel is challenging novelas by airing talk shows that are relevant to Hispanics but carry a PBS-type punch.

As in other industries, it’ll be interesting to see how players adapt to the fast-changing Hispanic market, but if I had to bet I would put a subatantial amount of my money on educational, higher-end TV for an increasingly demanding demographic.

To read more on V-me go here

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