Hispanics: America’s Major Minority

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Earlier this year, in launching
its cross-platform Xfinity en Español
package, Comcast sent a message
to competitors both traditional and
new: It would keep on pursuing the
crucial Hispanic audience well beyond
the television screen.

To help pitch the new service — a collection
of Spanish-language video content
on traditional TV channels, video-on-demand and online
— the nation’s largest cable operator enlisted Colombian-born
actress Sofia Vergara.

Already a star in Latin America and among U.S. Hispanic
audiences, Vergara’s popularity has crossed over to the
so-called general market, thanks to her Emmy- and Golden
Globe-winning performance on ABC’s smash sitcom Modern
Family
.

Cover_Story_Image_04/11

“Since I’m always on the go, it’s important for me to be connected
whenever I want, from wherever I want,” a heavilyaccented
Vergara says in one of Comcast’s English-language
promotional videos.

THE LARGEST MINORITY

Comcast’s push for Xfinity en Español is just one of many efforts
to better cater to a demographic that, at some 50 million,
has become the nation’s largest minority group, according to
the first national findings from the 2010 U.S. Census released
last month.

And that demographic is growing at a large rate, both in
states that have typically attracted large numbers of immigrants
from Latin American countries and in such unexpected
places as Vermont, Maryland, Tennessee and even Alaska.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than half of the
total U.S. population growth from 2000 to 2010 was due to the
whopping 43% increase among Hispanics, from 35.3 million
in 2000 to 50.5 million in 2010.

Overall, the rise in the Hispanic population accounted for
more than half of the 27.3 million uptick in the total U.S. population.
Hispanics now make up 16% of the total U.S. population
of 308.7 million. By contrast, Census figures showed that
the non-Hispanic population grew at a relatively slow 5% rate
over the decade. Within the non-Hispanic population, the
number of people who reported their race as just white grew
even more slowly, by 1%.

“The white population
might still be the largest, but
it is not growing nearly as
fast as Hispanics or Asian-
Americans,” Census Bureau
spokesman Raúl Cisneros told
reporters when the Census results
were released. “And that
is only part of the nation’s reality:
The nation is demographically
very dynamic.”

NEW TERRITORIES

These figures — which most
Hispanic media outlets assert
will serve as a wake-up
call for marketers, advertisers
and media outlets — come as
no shock to pay TV providers.

“This wasn’t surprising information for us,” Comcast senior
vice president and general manager of video services Marcien
Jenckes said. “We understand the composition of our audience
and we know our Hispanic audience is very large, important
and growing in terms of our overall business.”

Yet, even for Comcast — with 23 million subscribers nationwide
and a stronghold in such “traditional” Hispanic markets
as Houston, Chicago, Northern California and South
Florida — there was at least one surprise in the new Census
data. The Hispanic population has more than doubled in
states like Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee
and Virginia — all of which are found within the Comcast
footprint.

“It becomes obvious pretty quickly that almost all across
our territory, Hispanics are not only the second-largest demo
but, obviously, the fastest growing,” Jenckes said.

Beyond the growth in sheer numbers, MSOs are also
watching their Hispanic subscriber base spread out, moving
away from the large cities where they’ve traditionally settled
to more suburban and even rural locales.

For instance, Time Warner Cable’s Hudson Valley, N.Y.,
operation has watched the Latino population soar in such
cities as Newburgh, Middletown and Kingston, N.Y., in the
past few years.

“The cities we know very well,” TWC director of multicultural
marketing Alessandra Otero-Reiss said. “The big challenges
now are in the rural areas, where satellite is heavily penetrated
and where we are seeing a growing number of Hispanics.”

Time Warner Cable was responding to these demographic
shifts even before the Census data was tallied. After
initially launching “El Paquetazo” — a package of 148 English- and Spanish-language channels tailored to the Latino
market — in California, Texas and New York, it followed
up with a 2010 launch of that product in the Carolinas, where
the Hispanic population has swelled in the past decade.

According to the Census, the Hispanic population grew
by a whopping 148% in South Carolina, while the state’s total
population grew just 12%.

“Even before these figures were released, we had recognized
the incredible growth in the area,” Otero-Reiss said.

ADIÓS, GENERAL MARKET

As the Hispanic and Asian-American populations surge,
growth in the non-Hispanic white population slows and the
number of self-described mixed-race individuals also grows,
it’s clear the face of America over the next decade will look
very different than 20 or 30 years ago.

For operators who still scramble to better understand the
shifting demographic terrain, U.S. Census Bureau director Dr.
Robert Groves offered this message: “We need to know how
race and ethnic groups are blending with others to eff ectively
target messages with several cultures in mind,” he told 1,000
marketing and advertisers executives earlier this year at the
Advertising Research Foundation’s annual convention.

Looking into the future, some even expect the so-called
general market to disappear.

“In five to 10 years, there will not be a general market,” Cox
Communications vice president of acquisition marketing
and sciences Tony Maldonado said. “Everything we’ll do in
our business, it’s going to be segmented to reach critical segments
within the community — and this is not only about
marketing, but something that will encompass everything,
from product offerings to customer operations.”

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