By: Mike Farrell – Multichannel NewsPanel Says Social Media, Online Content Drives Success

Viewers of Spanish language programming in the U.S. want more content and more ways to access it, whether it be on their TV sets or mobile devices, according to a panel discussion at the Multichannel News/B&C Tenth Annual Hispanic Television Summit 2012.

Networks that cater to the market are doing that in several different ways, including via social media, online content and TV Everywhere-like services and by streaming shows to mobile devices.

“The landscape is changing not just for the Hispanic market, but for all of us,” said Jorge Fiterre, a partner in Condista, a Miami-based firm that represents Hispanic networks that reach about 12 million cable and satellite homes. “Our channels are going to have to evolve with the landscape.”

Spanish language network Azteca America executive vice president, digital media and product integration Rawdon Messenger said that his network recently passed 1 billion video streams in the United States and that more than half of that content originated on a mobile phone. Outside of the U.S., about 26% of Azteca America’s streams are accessed via a mobile device.

“There is a massive movement to the mobile screen,” Messenger said, adding that programmers have to be careful that content made available on line and on smartphones is creative and compelling. “The biggest mistake people make is taking content and just chucking it on sites,” he said.

You Tube strategic partnerships manager Juanjo Duran said hat mobile is dramatically changing the market – he added that 72 hours of video are being uploaded on the video sharing site every minute. But he, too, cautioned that content must be high quality and relevant to viewers.

Networks also have to keep an eye on viewer habits and what they want, something that can be tracked successfully via social media, said Grupo Super Canal executive vice president Marcos Jorge. Jorge said that most of his viewers, mostly natives of the Dominican Republic and El Salvador, crave local content from their home countries more than anything. He added that the network uses social media and online promotions like sweepstakes and concert ticket giveaways to keep viewers engaged as well as to drive them back to the linear channel.

Social media also an provide valuable and cost-effective feedback to the channel.

“For many networks, subscribing to [ratings measurement giant] Nielsen is cost prohibitive,” Fiterre said, adding that social media provides an effective indicator of how an audience is reacting to particular shows.

While social media and online content may grab the attention of younger viewers , Hispanics watch most of their television at home. And that presents a bit of a problem to many Spanish language programmers – Hispanic households are among the biggest adopters of HDTV sets, yet most Spanish language programming is produced outside of the U.S. in standard definition.

That is beginning to change, but there is still a long row to how, Olympusat Holdings CEO Tom Mohler said.

Olympusat, which is one of the largest independent distributors of Hispanic networks in the U.S., recently launched 10 Spanish language channels on Verizon FiOS systems and according to Mohler “drained the oceans of HD content.” The channels should broadcast about 10,000 hours of HD programming in 2013.
Mohler added new technology, particularly IPTV, could help solve the problem for Spanish language networks because it will drive the need for more channels and more HD programming.

More channels, better quality and addressing niche markets might also provide the incentive for more U.S. Hispanic households to subscriber to Spanish language programming tiers, where many of the networks reside.

“There is going to be an explosion of viewership once we get enough content in HD that they can access,” Mohler said.

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