Cable Needs to Build Strong Ethnic Base


Key messages from this fall's NAMIC Urban Markets conference about the need for greater diversity in cable programming are still echoing throughout the industry. As we know, it isn't just about doing the right thing, it's the smart choice for our business. Increasing the availability and carriage of programming that's targeted to Hispanics and other culturally diverse audiences will increase cable's market share.

National Cable & Telecommunications Associations president and CEO Robert Sachs reminded us at the NAMIC conference that we are serving an increasingly diverse marketplace. Census 2000 data shows that one-quarter of the population is non-white, and that this number will increase to 33 percent by 2020 and to 50 percent of the population by the year 2060, with percentages higher in urban centers.

Much of the NAMIC conference highlighted the role that cable's digital platform can play in serving this growing segment of TV viewers.

Despite efforts to serve culturally diverse viewers with blockbuster programs on mainstream networks and an increasing number of niche channels targeted to particular ethnic groups, cable viewing in these homes is far from what it could be.

According to Nielsen Media Research, Hispanic homes spend one-third of their television viewing time tuned to Spanish-language programs while spending only 28 percent of their viewing time watching broadcast network affiliates.

Another key finding: viewing among Hispanic men is appreciably lower than men in total U.S. households and substantially lower than men in African-American households.

Men continue to name sports as their favorite genre on TV and this holds true among Hispanic males. Not surprisingly, their interest in television is greater in homes featuring Spanish-language sports programming. An ESPN Sports Poll found that Hispanics are more likely to be sports fans than the general population.

Cable's top multichannel competitors have been quick to seize the opportunity to increase market share by delivering more Spanish-language programming to the growing Hispanic market. Direct-broadcast satellite providers DirecTV Inc. and Echostar Communications Co. each offer 20 or more channels of Hispanic programming. And they are getting the desired results: DBS penetration is 14.4 percent among Hispanic households, a ratio that's on par with the general market percentage.

In contrast, the penetration of digital cable in Hispanic homes is 10.9 percent, a ratio that's 39 percent lower than the general market. In fact, total cable penetration in Hispanic households is only 66.3 percent, which is 21 percent lower than cable's share of the general market.

The success of DBS in winning Hispanic subscribers illustrates the simplicity of the solution. By offering more Spanish-language programming, cable can increase its share of the Hispanic market.

Working together, networks and cable operators have established globally branded programming for news, information and entertainment. Today, those same networks are working with cable operators to increase market penetration and viewership in our culturally diverse urban markets.

CNN en Español, Discovery en Español, MTV Español, ESPN Deportes and Home Box Office Latino join Black Entertainment Television, Galavision, Coulours, International Channel and other top brands for ethnic programming in supporting digital-cable penetration.

In addition to its contribution toward increased digital subscriptions, more Hispanic programming will provide both national and local advertisers additional opportunities to reach this growing market segment. The bottom line is that Hispanic consumers have buying power. The Selig Center for Economic Growth reported that Hispanics accounted for 6.4 percent of all U.S. buying power in 2001 and had $499.7 billion of disposable income.

The launch of more Hispanic programming signifies this industry's commitment to a diverse, growing customer base. As in the past, it will require a partnership between valued programming and cable distribution in order to grow our business and serve this increasingly important segment of the market.