In 1998, Dish Network was in a fierce battle to lure customers and differentiate itself from its competitors. Dish executives, under founder and chairman Charles Ergen, consciously chose to focus on adding international and ethnic programming to its lineup.
At the time, 31 million Hispanics were living in the U.S, and Dish began adding Spanish-language channels in earnest, knowing it had a good opportunity to attract those folks with content in their primary language.
The satellite-TV platform gave Dish a technical advantage over bandwidth-constricted cable operators, and the company used that edge to offer packages that would set it apart. The gambit has proven to be a good one.
Today, the number of Hispanics in the U.S. tops 54 million — 17% of the U.S. population — and Dish has continued to expand its Spanish- and English-language programming aimed at Hispanic viewers.
STILL A GROWTH DRIVER
While the company doesn’t break out how many people subscribe to the Dish- Latino tiers, it is a strong growth driver for the satellite service, DishLatino vice president Alfredo Rodriguez said.
“Charlie Ergen saw niche groups as a great growth driver,” said Jimmy Schaeffler, principal of The Carmel Group, which closely follows the satellite-TV business. “The Hispanic group was just one of those niches, but it was a good bet on his part because it has become a huge niche now.”
DishLatino is being honored with the Leadership in Hispanic Television Award by Multichannel News and B&C as part of the Awards Luncheon ceremony at the 12th Annual Hispanic Television Summit on Oct. 2.
Dish continues to lead the pack when it comes to attracting Hispanic customers, Schaeffler said. But the race has heated up in recent years as the demographic expanded. “Dish recognized long ago the value of attracting Hispanic customers,” he said. “[It] will have to continue to work hard to remain on top, however. We are a nation of immigrants, and if you understand that audience you have the opportunity to grow that market segment and drive revenue. Everyone recognizes the value of the Hispanic community now, but Dish has been doing it a long time.”
DishLatino was the brainchild of Michael Schwimmer, who joined Dish in 1996 as senior vice president of programming and marketing and currently serves as NUVO tv’s CEO.
A REVOLUTIONARY IDEA
Dish launched DishLatino in 1998; at the time it was a revolutionary idea designed to address the needs of the underserved Hispanic community.
The offering took off with fewer than two dozen channels. Today, 42 Hispanic channels populate Dish’s dial. The company offers five different Hispanic-centric tiers of service ranging in price from $20 to $90 a month.
Well-produced and relevant content will usually drive viewership or the amount of hours watched, Rodriguez said. “Finding the right mix of English- and Spanish-language programming is also an important balancing act,” he added. “At Dish, we continuously seek the ideal balance that will surprise and delight our customers.”
In addition to its recent linear channel additions, Dish is also reportedly in the final process of developing a Hispanic-centric over-the-top service that could launch before year’s end, possibly under the Nutv brand.
Rodriguez did not address Dish’s OTT plans directly, but said new technology and distribution platforms “have always been game changers, and while it is difficult to predict the future, the one constant is that the customer will ultimately decide.”