Those cable programmers and operators who've reached out to the Hispanic community in recent years weren't surprised by U.S. Census numbers that showed strong population growth in that sector over the past decade.
But the national growth rate of 58 percent was even larger than the government had projected. And that figure was dwarfed by even greater surges in some pockets of the country, including areas in the South, Midwest and Pacific Northwest — all of which were outside of traditional Hispanic strongholds such as California, Texas, Miami and New York City.
"Once you start looking beyond the top 15 Hispanic markets, that's where you see some of the biggest jumps in the numbers," said Home Box Office director of target marketing Bernadette Aulestia.
And those surges may surprise some, said Francisco Valle, CEO of California advertising agency SCDRG Inc.
"The Hispanic gold rush is much larger than people thought," he said. "And the census numbers will create an even greater Hispanic gold rush."
The U.S.-based Hispanic population will wield between $550 billion to $600 billion in purchasing power this year, according to Valle. And TV providers are vying for a piece of that market — one that has been underserved in the past, many conceded.
Direct-broadcast satellite providers DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp. — which can spread their investments across a nationwide footprint — were the first to introduce aggressive Spanish-language programming packages.
But a number of cable systems across the country have followed suit, responding both to the competition and changing local demographics.
Some towns in the Carolinas have tripled their Hispanic population-growth over the past 10 years. In its local systems, Charter Communications Inc. has added Spanish-language networks such as Telemundo and HBO Latino, said Charter Southeast region vice president of marketing Robin Forstrom.
In markets such as Greenville, S.C., and Hickory, N.C., Charter also plans to add a suite of Spanish-language services to its digital-cable lineup, starting this July. The channel additions will include CNN en Español, Discovery en Español, Fox Sports World en Español, VH Uno and MTV S.
Charter has already started reaching out to the Hispanic market. Disc jockeys at local Spanish-language radio stations receive free digital cable in return for on-air testimonials.
"They have a very core, loyal audience," Forstrom said.
The establishment of local Spanish-language radio stations and newspapers are a sign that a given market is ready for targeted Spanish-language services, she added.
TOP MSO'S EFFORTS
AT&T Broadband has made a priority of increasing its Hispanic customer base in a number of its markets, including Atlanta, Denver and Dallas.
In January, the Atlanta system introduced a "Latino Bonus Pack" as part of its revamped digital-cable lineup. The tier sells for $5.99 a month, in addition to digital box rental and expanded basic cable.
The package includes about eight Spanish-language video networks and Latino channels on the Music Choice audio service.
"In mid-May, we'll do a campaign specifically targeted to the Latino community," said AT&T Broadband of Atlanta spokesman Reg Griffin.
AT&T's Denver system launched a Spanish-language digital package last October. It recently started selling Spanish ads for Galavisión through its media-services department.
"Colorado has seen a huge increase in [its] Hispanic population," said AT&T Denver spokeswoman Jeannine Hansen.
Though Dallas has a significant Hispanic presence, only a small percentage of customers in the 49 towns AT&T serves in that market are Hispanic. Recent targeted marketing efforts have improved those figures, said AT&T Broadband Dallas spokeswoman Angel Biasatti.
This week, the system will send out a direct-mail piece from Showtime's "6 de Mayo" campaign, which is intended to extend the annual Cinco de Mayo celebration. New subscribers will get a free subscription to Estylo
, a bilingual magazine.
A bilingual marketing campaign for AT&T Dallas' digital-cable offering was launched last month, but the system has yet to add a dedicated Spanish-language tier.
Cox Communications Inc. recently added Spanish-language local news programming in Phoenix, where it already offered Spanish options on some of its regional sportscasts.
ADELPHIA LOVES L.A.
Adelphia Communications Corp. in Los Angeles is often held up as an example of a system that's done a good job of branding its Spanish- language digital tier, called Adelphia en Español.
Other operators should create Spanish-language tiers branded with their company names and the "en Español" tag, said International Channel and Canales ñ vice president of marketing Jim Honiotes. Systems could combine Canales ñ's lineup of Spanish-language cable networks with local Spanish broadcasters, he said.
Valle suggests that operators carry a minimum of 10 to 13 Spanish-language channels, if their goal is to lure this segment to cable. A comprehensive package priced at $35 to $40 should attract a large number of customers, especially if a premium service like HBO or Showtime is thrown in, he added.
"Hispanics know that premiums have exclusives, like boxing," Valle said.
DirecTV Para Todos, launched nationally by the DBS provider last April, recently renewed its endorsement contract with boxer Oscar de la Hoya for another year, said DirecTV Para Todos and international services vice president Yolanda Macias. This week, de la Hoya will shoot photographs for updated print and on-air creative materials.
The boxer's image is also used in retail point-of-purchase materials.
"He tends to catch people's attention, and then they read the rest of the offer," Macias said.
The service surpassed its new subscriber-acquisition targets for January and February by 23 percent, said Macias, who would not disclose a total customer count for the bilingual offering.
In second-quarter 2001, DirecTV Para Todos will step up its promotional efforts with a sweepstakes that will send 10 winners to soccer's World Cup qualifiers in South America and Europe.
Sales of DirecTV Para Todos are almost entirely incremental for the DBS company, noted Macias. Less than 2 percent of Para Todos homes had subscribed to mainstream DirecTV service.
And new channels are still being added, most recently a network from Argentina.
"The strategy is to add channels that will attract a new segment, as well as to add value to current subscribers," Macias said.
Males are the most underserved segment of the Spanish-language market, Macias said, because much broadcast fare consists of novelas
targeted at women.
Sports programmers are starting to fill those gaps with new offerings like Fox Sports World en Español and, most recently, ESPN Deportes.
Several operators launched ESPN's four-hour Spanish-language sports block last weekend. AT&T Broadband in Atlanta runs the telecasts on its local origination channel.
ESPN Deportes will add a Spanish-language edition of SportsCenter
each night starting in July. The sports programmer is also said to be testing its response to determine whether to launch a 24-hour channel next year.
"As much as our customers are interested in soccer, boxing and baseball in Latin America, they're also influenced by U.S. culture," Macias said. ESPN Deportes helps to build family unity by showing U.S. sports events with a Spanish audio feed, she added.
Children in Hispanic households have driven purchases of the "NFL Sunday Ticket" out-of-market sports packages to a percentage higher than in the overall population, according to Macias.
Pan American Sports Network, already available in Latin America, is expected to make its U.S. debut on cable in May. Soccer legend Pele will act as its celebrity spokesman.
DRAWING ON CHARACTERS
Fictional sports heroes — like the boxers on Showtime's popular drama Resurrection Blvd.
— can also help to promote cable networks. Actors from the series appear at local community events in support of grassroots Hispanic marketing efforts.
Showtime senior vice president of marketing Gina Goldberg said that some of its Viacom Inc. sister companies may develop joint promotions with Showtime. The premium network may bring Resurrection Blvd.
talent to the Hispanic Days hosted by Paramount theme parks in such markets as Cincinnati, Goldberg said.
HBO Latino, a Spanish-language channel added to Home Box Office's "HBO The Works" digital package, also plans joint promotions with some of divisions within parent AOL Time Warner Inc., according to Aulestia.
The pay TV service already works with Internet service provider America Online to target minority communities. The network has also started talks to work on joint promotions with a new U.S.-based online Latino service that AOL plans to launch in May.
In addition, HBO Latino is exploring co-marketing possibilities with the Time Inc.-owned magazine People en Español.
HBO Latino launched last November and is now in the midst of its first national consumer-image campaign.
Much recent promotional activity has been aimed at the Hispanic market, but some in the industry feel there's much more to be done in reaching out to that sector and other groups.
The Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing recently set up a multicultural marketing committee, which is co-chaired by Black Entertainment Television executive vice president of affiliate marketing and sales Curtis Symonds and International Channel president Kent Rice.
Symonds said one of the committee's goals is to establish multicultural marketing panels at top industry conventions, such as the National Show, the CTAM Summit and the Western Show. Symonds would like to see one of the show's opening sessions devoted to the topic, so the industry can see the commitment from MSO CEOs.