If Sunday night's primetime Emmys show is an indication of the state of U.S. Hispanic media, things don't look very rosy, as Sofía Vergara, the Colombian bombshell, who stars in ABC's Modern Family, was the only Hispanic nominee.
This and other touchy truths were at the heart of the concluding session of Tuesday's 2011 Hispanic Television Summit, "The State of the Hispanic TV Business from the Executive Viewpoint."
Moderated by Multichannel News editor in chief Mark Robichaux, the panel, made up of some of the biggest names in Hispanic pay television, engaged in a lively discussion about the best practices to address the increasingly complex market and whether offering a so-called Hispanic tier is relevant in a world that is becoming more multicultural.
"The Hispanic market is the general market," said Jeffrey Hirsch, executive vice president and CMO, residential services at Time Warner Cable, which operates in several markets where Hispanics represent the major community component.
Echoing that sentiment was Michael Schwimmer, the CEO of nuvoTV (formerly SiTV), the independent network that targets the so-called new generation of Latinos, who prefer their TV in English language. "The market is already there," said Schwimmer. "It is hard to imagine a cast of a major television series, which doesn't have at least one or two Hispanics in a leading role."
But not every participant agreed. For Steven Wolfe Pereira, the executive vice president and managing director of MV 42, a Starcom MediaVest agency, "the market is not there at all." What is needed, he noted, is for brands to really up their investment and put their dollars where the market - - and the growth -- is. "Sofía Vergara is fine, but... having only one Hispanic nominated at the Emmys?"
The panel gained momentum when the presenters touched on the issue of Hispanic tiers, a model that does not really apply, or seem to make much business sense in this day and age. "The number of subscribers in the tiers hasn't really grown much in the past six or seven years," said Schwimmer.
He noted that when only one out of every 10 hours of Spanish-language viewing comes from the cable side of the dial, the perspective of selling a tier is difficult. Besides, with Hispanic consumers virtually everywhere and seeking their content in both languages, many are looking for a proposition that doesn't segregate them. "Why pay for a package that would cost roughly the same as my neighbor when he ends up getting so many more channels?" said Schwimmer.
Added Wolfe: "We have to move past the concept of tiers! Look at technology companies: They have truly infiltrated the media world. We at SMG are looking past broadcast TV...it's all just video regardless of the screen."
Part of the problem is, of course, the lack of content. "Let's be honest. Content is not always that good," said Jim McNamara, the former president of Telemundo, who is now chairman of Cinelatino, a 24/7 network devoted to Spanish-language cinema.
To conclude the conversation and Tuesday's Summit, presented by B&C and Multichannel News, Robichaux asked the panelist to share some of the major lessons and breakthroughs their companies underwent this 2011. Some of the highlights follow:
"More competition will be coming our way; and this will bring more options, and thus more value for pay TV customers."Ivan Bargueiras, GM U.S. Hispanic, Discovery
"Target your marketplace with content that is specifically made for them; use social media to help boost your core business." Vincent Cordero, Fox Deportes
"Move away from thinking of Hispanic as a niche industry." Jeffrey Hirsch, Time Warner Cable
"Invest where there is growth." Steven Wolfe Pereira, MV42. "Understand where Latinos are, not where they are from." Steven Wolfe Pereira