Commentary

Is there A Better Way To Measure The U.S. Hispanic Television Audience?

Virtually every leading corporation in the U.S. today views the Hispanic population as a growth segment. Hispanics make up 55 million and are projected to almost triple in size by 2050. Their purchasing power of more than $1.2 trillion in 2013 is growing, and more and more counties, cities, and states are becoming “minority” majorities across the country.

The big question, however, is how can leading corporations improve targeting effectiveness and media efficiency given that the majority of today’s Hispanics are U.S. born, and that Spanish usage declines by generational level? 

While it’s clear that Spanish-language has served the Hispanic marketing industry well, moving forward, new metrics will need to be added to better quantify a changing demographic landscape. 

Historically, the Hispanic media approach and audience measurement has centered on Spanish-language, which has been the industry standard for more than 20-years—with language quintiles measuring the Hispanic television audience in aggregate

What if there’s a better way? 

Published in the September issue of the Journal of Cultural Marketing Strategy, a new study challenges the “one-size fits all” Spanish-language television measurement model that has dominated U.S. Hispanic marketing for decades. 

The study proposes using two well-known variables in cultural marketing — “Generational Level” (i.e., first, second, third generation) and “Years-in-Country” (i.e., number of years in the U.S.) to further dimensionalize the changing U.S. Hispanic television audience. 

Generational level is a highly useful variable, which can measure differences across language usage, and other cultural variables under the banner of “culture.” “Years-in-country” can help marketers understand behavioral shifts that take place over time within one generational period (i.e., first generation). 

Key Highlights of ‘JCMS’ Study 

  • Univision and Telemundo ranked #1 and #2 in most watched television networks among first generation Hispanics. However, Univision ranked #5 in most watched television networks among second generation Hispanics. For third generation Hispanics, the top five most watched television networks were all in English. 
  • Viewing of Spanish-language programming decreased over time for first-generation Hispanics, while their consumption of English-language programming increased during the same time period. This may be due to their increasing level of proficiency in English, and their desire to expand their TV programming choices (or a combination thereof). 

These findings have significant programming implications. Generational level and years-in-country help media companies better target the changing Hispanic television audience, allowing them to allocate budgets with greater granularity. 

Understanding the connection to language and other cultural dimensions will continue to be important in targeting the diverse U.S. Hispanic population. But the complexity of culture requires a more nuanced approach, and these two variables offer a straightforward path to increased understanding. 

We would love to see syndicated media measurement companies include these variables, which have greater predictive power to help drive media strategy and investment decisions for leading corporations, who are the greatest beneficiaries of this new methodology. 

The potential costs savings and budget re-allocation implications from this study are enormous—possibly in the tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars per year. (Spanish-language media spend exceeded $7 billion in 2014.)

We are optimistic that this fresh approach will spur innovation and openness with media measurement companies, as we have seen—and improve Hispanic television audience measurement in the U.S. regardless of language. We believe this is the paradigm shift corporate America has been waiting for, and will embrace it given its impact on their bottom line.

2 comments about "Is there A Better Way To Measure The U.S. Hispanic Television Audience?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 16, 2015 at 9 a.m.

    Some very good points, guys, but I'm nt sure that we are talking about measuring the Hispanic audience as opposed to defining it more realistically. For example, I assume that Nielsen recruits peoplemeter panel households based on some acceptible definition of being "Hispanic", including the various generations and their orientation regarding language and other relevant matters. If not, this should be addressed. If, however, Nielsen's sample includes the proper proportions of the major Hispanic segments, or is weighted to reflect their relative importance, then all we are talking about is getting Nielsen to add a more complete description of the viewers. The same is true of other sources---especially those that describe product purchase and service use. The first question is whether the sample is representative; the second issue is getting the researchers to add some of the descriptions you are talking about to the "standard" demographic ones.

  2. Santiago Ogradon from Energy Communications, September 16, 2015 at 2:32 p.m.

    For purposes of targeting a cluster group, I believe the article is on point. No population of people is monolithic. Where marketers may find confusion is targeting Hispanics in mass media. Regardless of age, language proficiency, generation, gender, etc., Hispanics in the U.S. are either watching, listening or reading in Spanish or in English (or some combination thereof). From a media target standpoint, we can look at content to see what type of person it was designed for. We've seen a few television programs attempt the bilingual road (and mostly failed), and some ads with some Spanish words peppered in, which takes away from the message and does not address a part of the population with a language deficiency either in English or Spanish - the truly bilingual are not as affected. Some years ago CBS accepted Spanish-language ads in their Hispanic awards show (forgot what it was) and many in the majority English-speaking audience were not pleased. It seems to me that the best solution is to see the ratings (especially in the People Meter markets where there are electronic demographic measurements) and craft the message in English or in Spanish, based on product and target and using relevant creative.

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