Univision Doesn't Offer Any, Upfront Pitch: Play It Safe, Don't 'Experiment'
Throughout the presentation reflecting its three networks - Univision, younger sibling TeleFutura and cable channel Galavision - executives alluded to the "experiments" of other Latino-oriented broadcasters, some of whom are testing English-language or even "Spanglish" approaches to tap the burgeoning U.S. Hispanic population and the equally ascendant advertising budgets that are expanding with it. But the main allusion was to Telemundo, the NBC Universal network that is seen as Univision's main rival and which has commanded much of the attention on Madison Avenue and in the media.
"Telemundo is talking a growth story. That's their magic," said Otto Padron, vice president-programming and promotions, to reporters following the event, adding that Telemundo's momentum was a myth. "They're back where they were two years ago," he said, citing Hispanic TV audience share data from Nielsen Media Research.
Even so, Univision's presentation - it's eighth official annual upfront sales pitch - lacked some of the inspiration, energy and even cohesiveness of recent years, and suggested the Spanish-language programmer is spending more time looking over its shoulder than at the future.
Among its most heavily touted new offerings were a typical array of novellas, variety shows and a "new" game show, "Trato Hecho," which essentially is a retread of the long-in-the-tooth Anglo "Let's Make A Deal." The network even featured an aged Monty Hall in a promo clip during the presentation to make that connection.
An even more telling moment was when Latino TV superstar Veronica Castro took the stage to pitch her new variety show "Viva Vero," sheepishly turned to the audience of advertisers and media buyers and acknowledged, "I haven't worked in four years."
Most of the "new" concepts pitched Wednesday were Spanish-language versions of Anglo reality TV formats, though there was one potentially innovative series that mixed real-life docudramas of stories about Latinos making it in the U.S., combined with a talk show featuring their protagonists.
Univision's conservatism may be understandable given its awesome market position. Despite all the new competition, it still commands a 79 percent share of the Spanish-language TV market in the U.S. and virtually monopolizes the top 50 shows among Spanish-language viewers. But it may have been the wrong note to strike to ad executives, given the dynamic nature of the Hispanic marketplace.
In fact, the message was at odds with some aspects of the presentation, especially the opener, which featured one of Univision's highly energized talents, the Latino rap duo AKWID, which performed their hit "No Hay Manera" ("There's No Way").
The question for Madison Avenue may be whether there's any way Univision will match the 26 percent increase in 2004-05 advertising sales that it has averaged in recent years. Univision's Rodriguez implied the network was confident it could do that, even with new competition within the Latino TV marketplace. "We just have a lot of room," he told reporters, referring to the expansion of the overall Hispanic market, and the fact that Spanish-language TV still is generating only about 50 percent of the advertising budgets it should be attracting based on its audience delivery. "That's $1.5 billion on top of what we are already doing," he noted.