Hispanic TV programming expands

  • By Wilson Lievano / The Wall Street Journal
  • Friday, February 24, 2006 9:00pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Satellite and cable-TV companies are increasingly courting the nation’s fast-growing Hispanic audience with multichannel packages of Spanish-language programming, bringing more choice to a market long dominated by networks Univision Communications Inc. and Telemundo.

Millions of Hispanics in the U.S. are tuning in to channels offered by Comcast Corp., Cablevision Systems Corp., Time Warner Inc.’s Time Warner Cable unit, Echostar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network and News Corp.’s DirecTV. Their Spanish-language offerings mirror their English-language lineups, including sports, music, cartoons and drama.

Pricing and other terms vary. Cablevision, for example, offers 31 channels in Spanish for $4.95 as an add-on to regular cable service. Dish Network’s Dish Latino, starting at $24.99, offers the same number of channels but can be purchased separately. Comcast Selecto starts at $49.35, including basic cable service.

Until recently, TV shows aimed at the nation’s Hispanics were largely imported from Mexico. Driven by the popular sitcom “El Chavo” and soccer games, mostly from the Mexican league, Galavision, a unit of Univision, has been the leader on Hispanic cable. The plot of “El Chavo,” which means “the kid,” revolves around the exploits of a child – played by a well-known adult comedian – who lives in a barrel in the yard of a Mexican neighborhood. The show attracts about 500,000 viewers every weekday.

“The content of (the networks) for the most part is from Mexico. Fifteen million people from other parts of Latin America never got anything with the exception of Mexican content,” said Javier Prelooker, director of DirecTV Para Todos.

Each of the newer entrants in the market has at least one channel from each Spanish-speaking country in Latin American, except Cuba, and two from Spain, helping them reach out to a range of a nationalities.

Dish Network declines to provide subscription figures for its Dish Latino package. DirecTV says its similar package, DirectTV Para Todos, had 900,000 subscribers at the end of October, far more than double the 360,000 it had in January 2004.

And there is still room for growth. According to Nielsen Media Research, the nation’s 11.2 million Hispanic-American TV households watch an average 17 hours of prime-time TV per week, four hours more than the overall U.S. average.

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