As the number of Spanish-language cable networks increase, so, too, are the promotions designed to make Hispanics aware that those services are available in their neighborhoods.
No matter how the service reaches the home–solely via cable, or through a blend of cable and broadcast-station affiliates–the distributor is as much the focus of this street-by-street outreach as the programmer. That's why, whether it's Univision, Galavision, Telemundo or Fox Sports en Español, or there's a package of networks involved (the case for International Channel's Canales ñ and OlympuSat's Latino collections), partnerships are crucial to gaining channel slots.
Still, as programmers and operators charge into the burgeoning Hispanic marketplace, they would be wise to heed another rule of thumb, à la the thinking of former Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill. Language differences aside, it's all a local affair.
"A blanket national approach to outreach doesn't work," said Laura Dergal, marketing director of mun2Television, Telemundo's all-cable-distributed channel geared to Gen X and Y Latinos. "A Honduran population in New Orleans won't have the same kind of community values, interests or places to be involved in as the Caribbean population in New York City."
For operators, the trick is to use Spanish lingo TV to cater to this market often and in inventive ways, according to Rick Acosta, International Channel's Hispanic markets vice president.
"You must position these channels as a service to a community that's established, part of your franchise and growing with your franchise," he said.
Beyond being original and proactive, the messages themselves should showcase or celebrate Latino culture. "The most important element is that the message must be sensitive," said OlympuSat senior vice president of affiliate sales and distribution Colleen Glynn. "Don't just mirror the message you give to your English-speaking customers."
Indeed, the day is drawing closer when Spanish-language community outreach will be a major marketing road for English-language cable networks. NBC, which assumed control of Telemundo last summer, has tapped Lynette Pinto, Telemundo's marketing chief, to spearhead Latino campaigns for the entire NBC cable network stable. Pinto's role especially will be key in 2004, when Telemundo, and possibly mun2, join NBC-owned Bravo, CNBC and MSNBC in covering the Summer Olympics from Athens, Greece.
Concurrently, broadcast Spanish channels are upping their promotional forays into the community. Azteca America, which is still building a wide affiliate base for its schedule (originating mostly from Mexico), recently engaged Time Warner Cable's Los Angeles area systems for a free concert involving LA Academia, a popular talent showcase similar to American Idol. Time Warner subs were invited to attend the concert, headlining Academia
winners, while the system exhibited its products on-site.
Univision Communications Inc.'s portfolio of networks—Univision, Telefutura and Galavision—have some outreach activities going forward with cable operators, especially on behalf of Galavision, which is fully cable-distributed. Univision declined to participate in this feature, citing a quiet period in advance of the company's acquisition of Latino radio owner Hispanic Broadcasting Corp.
For mun2, the outreach vehicle of choice is "u<crews," Latino college-student teams who spend a semester-long internship dreaming up neighborhood promotions or participating in community events. Teams cover a particular city with eight to 10 members, with each aspiring to gain expertise in a different discipline, including consumer research and public relations. Each member is also required to spend a minimum of 10 hours in community service.
"They build up loyalty with members of the community and we get the chance to show off the scope of what they're doing, whether it's working in soup kitchens or tutoring kids, in on-air segments," Dergal said.
One beneficiary of u<crews is the National Hispanic Scholarship Fund, which partners with each team during the semester on a community event or fundraiser. Time Warner Cable showed up at NHSF's San Antonio benefit late last month, with crew members passing out literature about the system's services. Around the same time, u<crewers surfaced at the Texas Show, circulating mun2 affiliate literature and a local nightlife guide they produced for attendees.
More than 165 students have worked on u<crews since the project was launched last summer, with several subsequently landing jobs at mun2, parent Telemundo and NBC Cable.
A number of Canales ñ affiliates have conducted community outreach projects in association with local institutions. Besides arranging those connections, Canales ñ, whose channel package includes CNN en Español and Discovery en Español, made arrangements with local Latino-owned marketing or sales organizations to take out Spanish-newspaper ads or put together direct-mail lists which pinpoint Latino households.
For Adelphia Communications, Canales ñ is developing outreach projects in association with Turtle Ridge, an ethnic marketing firm.
With OlympuSat, outreach has taken several directions. In Queens, N.Y., RCN joined forces with OlympuSat to distribute bilingual program-information sheets on the street. Also, posters touting VidaVision, TV Chile and Canal Sur and other networks will be displayed in Latino-oriented grocery stores and restaurants.
Last spring, Glynn's team joined Time Warner Cable in co-sponsoring the Latino International Film Festival in Los Angeles, which drew more than 35,000 people during its run. Separately, OlympuSat worked with the L.A. chapter of the National Association of Minorities in Communications to organize a film festival program devoted to Latinos in TV. They also formed a bond with East L.A. Classic Theater, where children living in the barrios learn Shakespeare. Former Resurrection Blvd.
co-star Tony Plana heads the theater.
In Philadelphia, OlympuSat is looking to gain access on Comcast systems for VidaVision. Already, VidaVision is doing outreach work with Nueva Esperanza (New Hope), a project that helps to establish Hispanic-owned businesses throughout the city as well as renovate apartments for low-income families.
With community outreach anticipated to grow in conjunction with an expanding assortment of Spanish channels (as well as English or bilingual channels which are Latino-centric), programmers and operators might be better served over the long haul to establish an information or promotion clearinghouse. Programs from various parties could be included and operators could choose the campaigns and providers they would work with, Glynn said.
"We should come together and figure out how to best address the market," she said. "We're not an island unto ourselves, nor do we want to be."
At mun2, various media entities aimed at Latino youth are already in place, including a speaker's bureau and an English-language Web site. Dergal can see a Spanish TV clearinghouse evolving. "It's not a competitive concept and could be worthwhile," she said.