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Thursday, November 17, 2016

The rise of Houston Spanish-language TV

Univision 45 KXLN and Telemundo 47 KTMD are pushing Spanish-language TV to the top of Houston ratings in the fourth largest Spanish TV market in the country

Spanish-language TV news ratings in Houston are, what can I say, getting muy caliente! So much so that Univision 45 KXLN and Telemundo 47 KTMD are fighting for the top spot during the late news. That even means over their English-language newscast counterparts.

And I've heard the Houston English-stations have taken notice. Just look at the 2016 Lone Star EMMY wins for example.

"At the close of the October 2016 survey period, our station was once again the most-watched during Primetime," Tony Canales, President and General Manager, KTMD told "Our late weekday newscast also outranked all of our local competitors."

KTMD certainly has momentum behind its back for the first time in years. Just years ago, the station was airing a newscast produced out of Dallas with a handful of Houston reporters trying to make it more local.

Now the NBC owned station is the only Spanish-language station in town to use a helicopter to cover breaking news. The station tells me it just launched a new app that features first-of-its-kind Spanish-language weather alerts. It's also launched a new consumer investigative unit called Telemundo Responde (Telemundo Responds) which fights for viewers' rights.

"The Telemundo Station Group stations have been completely transformed thanks to NBCUniversal’s investment in the stations," Canales added. "As a result, the Telemundo-owned stations have ushered in a new era in Spanish-language local news."

That era appeared to be jump started for Telemundo after Comcast's purchase of NBC and Telemundo in 2011. Afterwards, veteran anchors Martin Berlanga, Paulina Sodi and Antonio Hernandez were hired.

"For example, we launched two new weekday half-hour local newscasts (at 4 PM and 4:30 PM) in less than two years," Canales told me. The added hour of news allows Telemundo Houston to deliver more news, first. We’ve also hired newsroom staff to support the boost in news."

The hiring of newsroom staff also has caught the notice of Houston TV veterans.

One pivotal hire for the station came in the form of a KTRK abc13 manager back in 2014. Executive producer Jerry Vazquez left the ABC owned and operated station to become the Vice President of News for the NBC owned Telemundo station.

A source close to Vazquez told me the KTRK brass were insistent he would never get any ratings at his new shop. That notion has since been proven wrong.

"With more than a decade of experience working in local news in Houston, Jerry has helped our news team execute our aggressive local news strategy day-in and day-out to help Telemundo Houston be our viewers’ local station of choice," Canales said.

Vazquez's move took some TV newsers by surprise because someone leaving English-language TV to work at a Spanish-language station in Houston was not something that generally happened at the time. In fact, it was usually the opposite. Since then, other staffers have jumped from channel 13 and KPRC 2 to work at KTMD.

Sources in the newsroom tell me there are lots of good things happening at the station and the employees are excited to be apart of it all.

But it's not just English-language broadcasters making the move to KTMD, so are Spanish-language ones. Most recently Carlos Robles and Crystal Ayala have crossed the street to KTMD from Univision owned KXLN 45.

For many years, Univision 45 has owned Spanish-language viewers in Houston. Back in 2012, the station sent me a press release that was the shot heard around the Houston TV market.

In the first major sweep of the 2012-2013 television broadcast season, KXLN Univision 45 is Houston’s No. 1 broadcast station among Adults 18-34, Adults 18-49 and Adults 25-54 in all the major dayparts: daytime, early fringe, early news, primetime, late news and late fringe, regardless of language. KXLN Univision 45 is also the most watched station during early morning among both Adults 18-34 and Adults 18-49.

During a sweep that included extensive news coverage on a history making presidential election, KXLN’s early 5 p.m. “Noticias Univision 45 a las 5” (News 45 at 5) and late 10 p.m. local news “Noticias 45 Edición Nocturna” (News 45 Evening Edition), were the most watched local newscasts among Adults 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54.

Those types of press releases keep coming every ratings period even with its parent company experiencing turbulent times as of late.

"Univision Houston is a leader in TV and radio nationally, regardless of language, and we deliver the best news coverage, radio shows and everything in between to the community that we’re proud to serve," David Loving, Senior Vice President/General Manager of Univision Communications Inc. Houston, told "We attract top talent by staying true to our mission of informing and empowering Hispanic America and to our goal of delivering best-in-class content day in and day out."

And no doubt KXLN has some top talent. Anchors Raul Peimbert and Michelle Galvan are both network quality because they've worked at that level. Last year, Galvan was asked to fill-in on the network's Primer Impacto.

"Top talent likes to work for top talent, and that starts with our award-winning news director Martha Kattan," Loving added. "Martha is recognized as a leader in the news business with a long pedigree of experience in both English and Spanish language. Her vast knowledge and deep contacts within the industry make her one of the most sought after people to work for. In fact, some of the people you see on the Univision Network at one point in their career either worked with or for Martha.

"While we cover the important stories of the day just as other news entities do, we go deeper into stories that are more culturally relevant to our audience—we’re their voice. Raul and Michelle and the wider news teams are members of the community they report on, this is what connects us to our viewers in such a unique and powerful way."

And that cultural context is what keeps part of the audience from switching the channel to the "Big Four" English-language network's local newscasts.

"The content in these newscasts is tailored to this audience, containing news items from their countries of origin, stories that reflect their own priorities, and with their daily lives delivered with the sensitivity, passion and tone they expect and are accustomed to," Alex López Negrete, President/CEO of López Negrete Communications told "Spanish-language media consumers are not consuming Spanish-language media out of necessity, rather they are consuming it by choice. This choice is driven by culturally relevant content that speaks to culture and tradition that is not being delivered by general market (English-language) media."

And both KXLN and KTMD have a large audience to connect with.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic population in Houston is close to 45% with no signs of slowing down.

The population that speaks Spanish at home grew about 8.5% between 2010 and 2015. The younger group, ages 5-17 grew by 2.4% while 18-64 year olds grew by 4.3%. However the largest growth goes to the population ages 65 and over who grew by 30%.

"This paradigm of Spanish-language media growth and of Telemundo and Univision stations in Houston claiming the #1 and #2 10 p.m. newscasts (regardless of language) is not new," López Negrete explained. "Houston boasts a very large Hispanic population and has for quite a long time. This enormous audience is making a conscious choice to consume Spanish-language television, and is funneled into TWO networks/channels vs. four major ones."

That large Hispanic population actually separates Spanish-Language TV from the English-language world. While Houston is ranked number eight in the Nielsen TV Designated Market Area (DMA) list, it's actually the fourth largest Spanish TV market in the country behind Miami (#3), New York (#2) and Los Angeles (#1).

López Negrete says Spanish-language media reached “scale” two decades ago, particularly in major cities such as Houston, starting with radio in the 1980s, and then television in the 1990s and beyond.

"It is important to note that too much has been said, written and predicted about the decline of Spanish-language media, as the growth of the segment is coming from U.S.-born Latinos – but evidence points to the contrary," López Negrete said. "It is fact that Spanish remains strong and stable, as has Spanish-language media."

López Negrete points to a Simmons National Hispanic Consumer Study (NHCS) that says among Hispanics 18 to 43 years of age, 83% speak Spanish at home, a number that has stayed statistically steady for the last seven years, and the number of folks who speak English and Spanish equally has actually increased from 11% to 23% in that same seven-year span.

Since Spanish-language television ratings are high, advertisers are taking notice.

"If advertisers want to cater to and truly engage with this very lucrative and growing audience, they must use Spanish-language media to do so," López Negrete said. "Many advertisers see that Hispanics account for over 25% of their growth and are high-level consumers of products and services across category after category, especially those related to family lifestyle brands. "

But even with a steadily growing audience, López Negrete says advertisers have under spent when it comes to Spanish-language viewers. Plus, there is an expectation that Spanish-language ratings points should be cheaper than in the English-language advertising world.

He advises companies to target younger viewers and even be willing to pay a premium for their attention.

"The spoils are going to those advertisers who have been enlightened and are spending to the opportunity that this segment and the Spanish-language media channels represent," López Negrete added. "And it is those early adopter brands that will enjoy the deep brand loyalty that this consumer offers."


· Launched two new weekday half-hour local newscasts (at 4 PM and 4:30 PM) in less than two years. The added hour of news allows Telemundo Houston to deliver more news, first. We’ve also hired newsroom staff to support the boost in news.

· We’ve invested in our digital tools and unveiled redesigned digital platforms for desktop and mobile. Our new station app, for example, features first-of-its-kind Spanish-language weather alerts. This helps viewers who are on the go, stay up-to-date with the news and information they need that may help keep their children and families safe when severe weather threatens to impact our area.

· In partnership with other local television stations, KTMD is the only Spanish-language television station in the market that incorporates helicopter coverage and delivers owned local aerial breaking news coverage to viewers in the market.

· Another enhancement that we made includes the launch of the wildly successful consumer investigative unit – Telemundo Responde (Telemundo Responds) – which is charged with standing up for consumers and answering their consumer questions directly. Launched in 2014, Telemundo Responde has expanded to 12 other markets and the units have collectively recovered more than $5 million for consumers.


· We have launched a successful regional morning show from 4a-6a based in Houston and broadcast to Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. We also created the Houston Uforia Lounge: a unique performance/ activation space in the station that showcases music artists monthly and shows off the 360 power of our radio/TV/ and digital platforms.

· We developed new ways to make news available to Hispanic youth: Produced a one-of-a-kind Hispanic Millennial debate exclusively for Facebook and Twitter live. Young Hispanics represent 3 of the major political parties participated. The debate had tens of thousands of viewers.

· Produced “En 1 Minuto’’ a news capsule especially designed for our digital and social media platforms. ‘En 1 Minuto’ consists of a summary of the biggest, catchiest headlines (whether local, national or international). It is designed with our younger viewers in mind who are constantly connected and seek news online.

· Created #ElHashtag- special 10pm segment designed to inform viewers of what’s trending on social media with politics, technology, social issues, and entertainment

· Univision’s community engagement platforms are education, health, financial literacy and civic engagement. Being an important election year, our main focus was on civic engagement, promoting citizenship, voter registration and get-out-the-vote. We produced and broadcasted several public service announcements to encourage Latinos to become US citizens, register to vote and exercise their right to vote.

· We provided a great community service through our weekly phone banks, covering different topics. From January through October, we conducted nearly 60 phone banks and assisted nearly 12k callers from throughout the Houston area.

· With the help of our civic engagement partners, we promoted monthly citizenship and immigration forums attended by thousands of members of the community

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