Cable and direct-broadcast satellite providers are aiming to attract the growing Latino television audience with programming packages and targeted marketing efforts that speak their language.
One recent example: Adelphia Communications Corp.'s Southern California region this month launched Adelphia en Español to a select number of Los Angeles-area systems.
Adelphia en Español is offered at a $24.95 trial price and includes a basic analog English-language package and a digital tier of nine Spanish-language video channels from Canalesñ.
In addition, Adelphia already carries three local Spanish-language broadcast channels, for a total of 12 Spanish video channels.
"We're looking to expand that to 15 or 17 channels," Adelphia regional diversity marketing manager Bill Rivas said.
Because a large percentage of the area's Spanish-speaking households are comprised of Mexican immigrants, Rivas said, Adelphia would like to add programming imported directly from Mexico, if possible.
"Recent immigrants feel isolated," Rivas said. "They want to see images from their home countries."
In some of Adelphia's Los Angeles systems, as many as 65 to 85 percent of the neighborhood households speak Spanish as a first language, Rivas said. Other portions of the L.A. market are populated with different ethnic groups, including immigrants from China, Japan and the Middle East.
"Southern California is a [programming and marketing] challenge because it's such a melting pot," Rivas said. "But it's what the country is going to look like in the next five years."
The focus on the growing Hispanic audience is not limited to Los Angeles, New York, Miami, San Antonio or other markets that have long boasted large populations of Spanish-speaking immigrants. The melting pot has already started to reach Middle America.
As cable operators rebuild their systems to offer more channel capacity, the ethnic fare is finding its way to markets such as Denver, where AT&T Broadband two weeks ago launched its AT&T en Español service on 12 local systems.
About 12 percent of the Denver population is Hispanic, according to AT&T Broadband metro Denver area senior vice president Joseph Stackhouse. "It's a segment we really need to be serving," he said.
AT&T en Español was launched in upgraded metro Denver areas including Arvada, Aurora, Commerce City, Edgewater, Federal Heights, Golden, Lakewood and Wheat Ridge, as well as parts of Boulder, Northwest Denver, Parker and Westminster.
The MSO already provides its Denver-area customers with Spanish-language broadcast channels Univision and Telemundo.
In the upgraded areas, AT&T adds Galavisión free of charge for expanded basic customers.
Current AT&T digital cable customers can add the 17-channel Canalesñ package, which includes nine video channels and eight audio services, for $9.95 per month. The $14.95 per-month price for non-digital subscribers also includes an on-screen program guide and access to digital-music channels and expanded pay-per-view offerings.
New AT&T customers must first buy a basic programming package. Most Denver-area customers could buy both basic analog service and the Spanish digital tier for roughly $28.95.
READY FOR THE CALL
AT&T en Español's first direct-mail campaign is expected to break this month, Stackhouse said. The MSO's regional call center has 85 bilingual customer-service representatives. They've been taking incoming calls in Spanish and can now upsell Spanish-speaking customers on the new package.
"Our reps are excited," Stackhouse said.
AT&T's Denver system plans to market the new package in both languages in an attempt to sell it to English-speaking parents who want to encourage their children to brush up on their Spanish.
The system designed its first marketing messages for AT&T en Español in-house, but is exploring opportunities for working with a local Hispanic marketing agency, Stackhouse said.
In Los Angeles, Adelphia enlisted local ad agency SCDRG Inc. to both create a new logo for Adelphia en Español and design its initial marketing messages.
"They were looking for something unique, something different, something that would connect with Hispanics, something with a friendly feel," SCDRG creative director Mark Seigler said.
The new design also needed to maintain the integrity of Adelphia's corporate logo, Seigler said. Beneath the standard Adelphia logo, Seigler added the phrase "en Español" using warm colors to create what he called "a rainbow sun look."
Direct-mail pieces for Adelphia en Español will be bilingual, too, at least for the introductory mailings.
"We want to make sure all our customers know this is available, whether they speak Spanish or not," Rivas said. In his market, parents may want to buy the programming package if their children are in a Spanish-immersion program, he said.
Designing a direct-mail piece in both Spanish and English-with twice the amount of copy as usual-"is a little bit of a challenge" graphically, "but a fun challenge," Seigler said.
KNOCKING ON DOORS
Both operators said grass-roots marketing efforts are important in reaching out to the Hispanic community.
In Denver, Stackhouse discussed AT&T Broadband's new Spanish-language programming package last month at a local fundraising event for Museo de las Americas.
In Anaheim, Calif., Adelphia earlier this month co-sponsored the Orange County Mariachi Festival, which helped raise scholarship funds for local Hispanic youth.
The operators' efforts come on the heels of increased competition from direct-broadcast satellite providers.
DirecTV Inc. has a combination Spanish- and English-language service called DirecTV Para Todos and EchoStar Communications Corp. earlier this month announced it had added an English-language option to its Spanish-language Dish Latino service.
Though DBS may have taken some subscribers away from cable operators, cable's expanded Spanish-language packages give those former customers "one more reason to switch back," Stackhouse said.
AT&T en Español will target both existing subscribers and those who have never taken service, as well as defectors to DBS, Stackhouse noted.
"I'll take them all," he said.