The Spanish-language TV station Univision has been one of the few expanding outfits during the latest saga of cutbacks and layoffs in the American media. This week it even unveiled an offshoot network with a special emphasis on American (and English-language) culture to target bilingual youths. OTM’s Raquel Maria Dillon reports on Telefutura.
Listen: MP3 of Telefutura (transcript after the jump)
BOB GARFIELD: This week the small screen became a little less “gringo,” but maybe a little more American. On Tuesday the Spanish television giant Univision spun off a new TV network. It’s called Telefutura, and it’s predicted to be profitable within a year despite the recent slump in the advertising business.
As Raquel Maria Dillon reports, the new network hopes to draw the elusive younger Latino, Generation Ñ.
[GROUP AT PARTY COUNTING DOWN FROM 10]
RAQUEL MARIA DILLON: In San Francisco the launch party of Telefutura’s local affiliate was packed as station employees and Latino business leaders counted down to the debut of the new station. [CHEERS & APPLAUSE] Univision already owns a cable network, a popular web site, a music label and a successful TV network that’s watched by over 80 percent of Spanish-speaking households in the U.S. Its main competitor, Telemundo, was recently bought by NBC. According to Marcella Medina, general manager of Telefutura’s Bay Area affiliate, the new network is designed to appeal to the 20 percent of Spanish speakers that don’t watch Univision.
MARCELLA MEDINA: We reach out to that younger Latino – it’s the bilingual person that may be in tuning in, watching some English language television with movies, with, with videos, with this new look, and frankly with, with an appeal that is–that is definitely, decidedly young and fresh.
RAQUEL MARIA DILLON: According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Hispanics make up 13 percent of the U.S. population. A steady stream of new immigrants guarantee that Spanish language TV is a growth market. Univision fills their need for news and telenovelas, but it misses the market with younger, bilingual Latinos. Carlos Santiago is a San Francisco marketing consultant.
CARLOS SANTIAGO: Young Hispanics make about one fifth of all young Americans, and in cities, in the major cities of the U.S., they make over 45 percent of all young people.
RAQUEL MARIA DILLON: Like their African-American peers, young Latinos are early adopters of cultural trends. They’re also bilingual and bicultural, but they think Spanish TV is for their parents.
CARLOS SANTIAGO: It’s like watching 1950s American TV in Spanish, and they would rather see themselves viewing English programming than the same novella 5 nights a week and not much difference in plot between one and the next.
RAQUEL MARIA DILLON: Unlike Univision, Telefutura’s program schedule features daily sports news focusing on boxing and soccer, and performances of Latin pop stars.
[ANNOUNCER SPEAKING IN SPANISH]
Edwin Garcia writes a media column for Nuevo Mundo, a Bay Area Spanish language weekly. At home he has over 200 cable channels, and 10 are in Spanish.
EDWIN GARCIA: I’m a news junkie, and I’ve always watched Spanish language TV in, in this market [and] anywhere else. I like to compare.
RAQUEL MARIA DILLON: So far Garcia is not impressed by what Telefutura has to offer. He says that a corporation as large and powerful as Univision should provide more than just entertainment.
EDWIN GARCIA: I’m disappointed that there isn’t news or much local programming. That’s what I was looking forward to. But it, it’s too bad, because that’s one area they could do a lot of good out there in society is informing the Latino public about news and current events.
RAQUEL MARIA DILLON: And what really bugs him about Spanish language TV is the fuzzy line between information and entertainment programming and the women in skimpy clothing on prime time. He expects Telefutura will be more of the same.
EDWIN GARCIA: Women hosts with their own calendars – their own swim suit calendars, but I mean imagine Katie Couric in a bikini or half naked –you’re not going to see it — but you will see it with some of these celebrities that Univision has been creating.
LALO LOPEZ ALCARAZ: Spanish language TV it’s, it’s like a – a time machine. You know you can see the beginnings of [LAUGHS] how TV started.
RAQUEL MARIA DILLON: Lalo Lopez Alcaraz draws a syndicated political cartoon, writes satire and runs a web site called Pocho.com. In Mexican Spanish “pocho” refers to a Latino who’s grown up in the U.S. and acts more American than Mexican. But Alcaras uses the term with pride. He says Telefutura is just Univision with a different name, regurgitating the same old programs borrowed from Latin America, and those shows don’t speak to Pochos like him.
LALO LOPEZ ALCARAZ: You don’t see yourself reflected in any sort of, you know, way in – on, on — in the media. I guess everybody likes to think that they’re one of the Friends, [LAUGHS] but there’s no Amigos on Friends. [MUSIC]
RAQUEL MARIA DILLON: In San Francisco’s Mission District, at a record store called Ritmo Latino, the 20-somethings browsing through CD racks prefer to speak Spanish, but they watch their TV in English — Cops, reality shows and Dawson’s Creek, and like the critics, Ivan Velazquez expects more from TV in Espanol.
IVAN VELAZQUEZ: …que pongan programas mas informativos, que no sean novelas, proque las telenovelas no…
RAQUEL MARIA DILLON: He says he’s glad Telefutura will air Hollywood movies dubbed into Spanish and World Cup soccer matches, but what he’d really like to watch in Spanish–
IVAN VELAZQUEZ: que pongan Discovery…
RAQUEL MARIA DILLON: –is the Discovery Channel.
For On the Media, I’m Raquel Maria Dillon in San Francisco.
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