LOWDOWN ON THE UPFRONT: Changing Dynamic

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It’s upfront season, and Hispanic TV networks are getting ready to present their 2008-2009 lineup to advertisers in New York City. But marketers and programmers can expect a very different dynamic from previous years, including the entry of new, smaller players to the upfront market and some big-name absentees.

For starters, Telemundo and sister youth-oriented cable network Mun2 will not be holding their annual Radio City Music Hall event, which last year drew more than 1,200 people. Instead, they will hold a press breakfast on May 12 at the Rainbow Room and will join parent NBC at an all-day event in Manhattan.

“The difference between these [presentations] and our traditional upfront is that now we will be dialoguing, not monologuing, with clients,” Telemundo vice president of sales Mike Rodríguez said.

Also ditching its usual upfront presentation is Azteca America, which in mid-April kicked off a three-week nationwide tour, visiting agencies and clients in several Hispanic markets.

The first phase of this process had sales and programming executives on a 45-meeting spree in such markets as Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and Nashville, presenting Azteca America’s offerings to clients. A second phase will take clients on a four-day visit to Mexico, where parent TV Azteca has most of its production facilities.

“We thought this intimate setting was a much more effective way to get our message across,” president of network sales Bob Turner said. Turner also said, unlike last year when Azteca America stressed the importance of producing content in its U.S. facilities, this year’s theme is “Made in Mexico, Tailored to the U.S.”

TRADITIONAL TACTICS



Those networks holding their traditional upfront presentations this year — including Univision, ESPN Deportes and Fox Sports en Español — will be in the company of new players, with several networks holding their first New York upfronts ever: LATV, V-me and Mega TV.

And unlike previous years when Hispanic networks would spread their presentations throughout one full week, four networks — Univision, GolTV, V-me TV and ESPN Deportes — will present on the same day (May 14). The rest are holding their presentations in late April or early May.

But Hispanic programmers are facing a bleak landscape. Advertising spending on Spanish-language TV grew only 1.5% in 2007, according to Nielsen Monitor Plus, a small figure compared to past years of double-digit growth. So it comes as no surprise that Hispanic networks are coming to this year’s presentations armed with research tools and proprietary data promising marketers the best return on their investment.

“On May 14, we are going to make a very strong business case as to why every marketer looking for growth needs to have a relationship with our audience,” said David Lawenda, president of advertising sales of Univision, which traditionally has commanded over 80% of the upfront dollars. “We will demonstrate that Univision is a marketer’s growth engine, particularly in recessionary times.”

After only seven months on the job, Lawenda is expected to present advertisers new data and research tools, including the recently unveiled fusion metrix, developed along with Nielsen Homescan and Nielsen Media, and proprietary data from a study it commissioned from Simmons regarding Hispanic media habits.

Lawenda declines to give specifics, but he said he is confident this will be Univision’s best upfront ever, with new brands and categories entering the market for the first time.

“Early meetings with representatives from consumer-packaged goods and automotive suggest growth in these categories,” Lawenda said.

Univision will also be in the middle of its much anticipated trial with partner and programming supplier Grupo Televisa, which begins April 29 in a California federal court. Lawenda, though, dismisses this as an advertiser’s concern: “I can’t comment on anything related to [the Televisa trial] but I can tell you no one is losing sleep over this.”

NEW PLAYERS
Among the new faces in this year’s Hispanic TV upfront is Mega TV, the Spanish Broadcasting System-owned and operated station, which launched in Miami in 2006 and in 2007 achieved national distribution through the DirecTV Más platform.

At press time, Mega TV was gearing up for its first New York upfront presentation on April 24 at Manhattan restaurant Guastavino’s.

“Unlike those networks that are scaling back their [upfront] plans, we are in growth mode, so we wanted to share our good news with advertisers,” said Cynthia Hudson-Fernández, SBS chief creative officer and executive vice president and managing director for Mega TV and SBS Interactive.

Mega TV, which this year made its Puerto Rico debut on the DirecTV platform, was scheduled to present advertisers with several new shows, including La Descarga con Albita, a one-hour music special hosted by Cuba-born singer Albita; Las Divas de la Tarde, a daily women-focused afternoon show; and Gabriel, a 10-episode miniseries shot in high-definition and featuring Latin sensation Chayanne.

According to Hudson-Fernández, the network was also scheduled to announce a content partnership with the Fox News Channel.

Also new to the upfront scene is New York City-based V-me TV, the 24-hour multicast digital network that launched in March 2007 and now reaches 37 million homes nationwide, including 5.6 million Hispanic households.

V-me, which earlier this year gave Multichannel News an exclusive sneak peek of its 2008-2009 lineup, will host what it calls an “experiential upfront” on May 14 at the Samsung Experience — which calls itself “an interactive brand emporium” — in New York City.

“We selected the Samsung Experience to show our content in all its different platforms,” said V-me president Carmen DiRienzo. “We want to make the point that advertisers can interact with our content in whichever platform they chose to be.”

V-me, which expects between 250-300 guests, will showcase some of its high-profile programming along with content partners The New York Times, Food Network, Billboard magazine and National Geographic. But it also wants advertisers to understand the power of “owning” one of the network’s themed nights (drama, sports, movies, music and current affairs).

“We promise an uncluttered environment to advertisers, not one 30-second spot after another. We want [our clients] to integrate their brand to part of a genre,” said Frank Donaldson, a former Univision executive who this year joined V-me as senior vice president and director of sales.

Also holding its first New York upfront presentation this year is Los Angeles-based bilingual outlet LATV. The network will hold its evening presentation on May 1 at Ultra NYC in Manhattan. In addition to showcasing its 2008-2009 lineup, LATV will talk to advertisers about its multicasting strategy and formally introduce its newly acquired property, American Latino TV, which nationally syndicates American Latino TV and LatiNation.

“We thought this would be a good opportunity to announce formally our partnership with American Latino,” said Danny Crowe, LATV’s president. “But also, as we become a stronger, more widely distributed network, we thought it was important to cover New York as well.”

But Crowe said the New York event will only complement LATV’s ongoing strategy of holding individual agency presentations throughout May. And just like Univision will come armed with research and data proving the power of Spanish-language television, LATV is expected to do the same, but this time showing the power of English-language and bilingual content targeting younger Latinos.

“We need to show advertisers that second- and third-generation Latinos cannot be reached only by Spanish-language television,” said Robert Rose, executive producer of American Latino TV, which effectively put LATV in the syndication business.

SPORTS NETWORKS



Launched only four years ago, ESPN Deportes comes to its May 14 presentation at Gotham Hall with plenty of reasons to celebrate: Between May 2007 and May 2008, the network doubled its Hispanic penetration, now reaching over 4 million Hispanic homes. It has established its brand on six platforms (television, radio, grass-roots, print, online and mobile) and is ready to present the addition of new talent and personnel.

“It’s a brand new network,” said ESPN Deportes general manager Lino García, explaining the theme of this year’s upfront presentation, “ESPN Deportes Reloaded.”

The Spanish-language network, which last year presented with ESPN, will hold its own event this year on May 14. Network officials expect over 400 attendees. Details are still sketchy but a network representative says this year’s presentation will be followed by a live, on-site telecast which will be aired on ESPN Deportes and ESPN2.

Fox Sports en Español, for its part, will return on May 13 to Midtown’s Cipriani where it will present advertisers “The Reel Game,” the theme of this year’s upfront presentation, which revolves around integrating the network’s different properties and going beyond simply television.

“This is totally about integration,” said Tom Maney, director of sales, Fox Sports en Español. And speaking about these recessionary times, Maney said this year’s upfront presentation aims at showing advertisers the real value of cable television, which already has a penetration of 81% among Hispanic households. “I am going to give [advertisers] the ability to communicate with affluent men 18 to 49 at a cost that is much less than broadcast television. This year’s upfront presentation is all about value.”

Fox Sports en Español, which currently reaches more than 13 million cable and satellite households (4.5 million of those are Hispanic) is also expected to announce a new grass-roots marketing effort, which will comprise 10 Hispanic markets nationwide and a brand new alliance with a yet-to-be announced partner.

“The Reel Game is not about television anymore,” said Maney. “It’s about television, online, print, mobile and event marketing.”

THE SOCCER FACTOR



Also in the sports category is bilingual soccer-only network GolTV, which is also holding a morning presentation on May 14. The network earlier this year netted deals for qualifying games involving the Italian, Spanish and German national teams, during 2008 and 2009, leading up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

In addition to the exclusive broadcast of world-class soccer leagues, GolTV is expected to present a few new properties and shows, including GolTV News, two live programs every weekday and one live Sunday program devoted exclusively to sports news, and the recently acquired rights to Milan Channel, a three-hour weekly show featuring a half-hour magazine special with coverage, behind-the-scenes sneak peaks and interviews with some of the sport’s biggest legends.

GolTV is also expected to herald its increased distribution to the current 16 million subscribers (3.2 million of which are in Hispanic households), compared to the 11 million it had at last year’s upfront season. But this year’s presentation, for which it expects about 120 attendees, will by no means be the network’s only marketing effort.

“Upfronts are great opportunities for a gathering to show the lights and whistles of your network but they do not replace personalized meetings with your clients,” said Didi Montiel, GolTV’s director of marketing. “So.., we are going to be doing both, a show in New York City, and a series of presentations elsewhere.”

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