In an interview prior to his participation in the next edition of NexTV CEO Latin America, Alan Sokol, President & CEO of Hemisphere Media Group, spoke with NexTV News Latam about the importance of the US Hispanic market and the company’s strategy for the region.
What characteristics do you see in the US Hispanic audience that make it attractive?
The most appealing characteristic of the U.S. Hispanic audience is that it’s a rapidly growing segment that is phenomenally underserved by current media companies. There’s also a great runway for cable penetration growth among U.S. Hispanic households—our Hispanic networks have continued to grow subscribers organically, despite the decline in total U.S. cable subscribers.
Knowing that the US Hispanic market is very coveted by media and operators, what is your key differentiating content to capture this audience?
Unlike the big Hispanic broadcasters, we target specific but significant and growing sectors of the U.S. Hispanic population with high-quality programming they can’t find anywhere else.
Which of the brands you offer are the most attractive for Hispanics?
All of our brands cater to Hispanics. Before making an acquisition, we strategically evaluate the brands to make sure they are attractive to the Hispanic audience in the market they serve. In the U.S., for example, we make sure the networks and platforms we offer serve a large and burgeoning audience that’s underserved by other media companies.
What is your content strategy?
We source content from the preeminent content distributors and producers in the world, most of which is exclusive to our networks. We also place a heavy emphasis on original production to give us content we know our audience craves, and that’s exclusive to us. For example, WAPA Television is the #1 broadcast station in Puerto Rico, producing more than 70 hours a week of original content, all of which can be seen in the U.S. exclusively on WAPA America. Canal 1, one of only three national broadcast television networks in Colombia, has been producing original primetime entertainment series based on proven formats that have had worldwide success. And Cinelatino, our top-rated Spanish-language movie network, recently premiered our most ambitious production to-date, El Desconocido—a five part miniseries that tells the compelling story of the right-hand man to Mexico’s most notorious drug lord. The series’ July 30 premiere was the highest-rated program on Spanish Pay-TV, based on Nielsen coverage ratings. El Desconocido is just one example of the high quality productions in the Cinelatino pipeline.
Do you plan to continue to produce original content?
Yes, we’ve seen great success in producing original content, which allows us to cater to the specific needs of our audiences, as well as to control its distribution. It well positions us to adapt to the evolving landscape and changing consumption patterns.
In your experience, how has the US Hispanic audience evolved?
We’ve seen a huge evolution in the U.S. Hispanic audience and their viewing habits. First, we’ve seen a shift away from the traditional telenovela that lasts for months and features dramatic over-acting viewers can’t relate to. We’ve seen a lot of success programming shorter-form dramas and mini-series, and not just from Latin American countries. Korean and Turkish dramas have become a television-viewing phenomenon in Latin America, and this trend has carried over into the U.S. One of our networks, Pasiones, has been a pioneer in bringing successful content from non-Latin countries for the U.S. Latin audience, and was the first U.S. network to program Korean dramas dubbed into Spanish. This strategy has been hugely successful for us and has helped propel our ratings growth.
We also know that more screens are competing for viewers’ attention, and Hispanics over-index on video consumption and mobile internet use, so offering a purely linear viewing experience is no longer enough. Though we’re aware of the increase in acculturation among U.S. Hispanics, we also know Spanish at home is at an all-time high, which is why it’s important to continue to produce and deliver content in Spanish.
How do you feel the rollout of Pantaya is going so far?
It is very early in the rollout process, but we are very encouraged by results to date. Pantaya offers unique and compelling content which cannot be found anywhere else.
Do you plan to launch Pantaya in the rest of LatAm or participate in another similar OTT/SVOD platform in the region?
For now, Pantaya is limited to the U.S. We are aware viewer habits are changing and we are evaluating different OTT opportunities. We have digital rights to most of our content and will focus on making it available where our viewers want to watch it.
How is the distribution of Pasiones and Cinelatino coming along in LatAm? Which markets are you interested in capturing to expand distribution?
We are very pleased with the distribution of Pasiones and Cinelatino in Latin America, which are available on many of the largest cable and satellite companies in the region, and we continue filling gaps. For example, Pasiones recently launched on Cablevision, Argentina’s largest cable distributor. We continue to focus on growing our penetration in the southern cone, as well as increasing our distribution with our current MVPD partners.