TV & Streaming

Spanish-language TV viewership is surging

But measurement challenges continue to undercut investment, some networks and buyers say.
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Grant Thomas

· 4 min read

We’re sure you’ve heard it about a million times: linear TV viewership is, on average, not looking good. But there’s one segment of old-fashioned TV whose outlook seems downright rosy.

Spanish-language TV networks, including mainstays like Univision and Telemundo, are on the upswing, growing daily audience reach even as many other major networks are seeing steady declines.

Recent data from Samba TV spells out the extent of the growth for television en español. In the second quarter of 2022, Univision’s growth more than doubled YoY to an average daily reach of 5 million, while Telemundo’s average daily reach increased by 46% to about 2.2 million, according to data Samba TV provided to Marketing Brew.

When it comes to daily household viewership, Univision was the fastest-growing linear television channel in the most recent quarter of 2022 among all channels, according to Dallas Lawrence, Samba TV’s SVP and head of communications and brand. And both Univision’s and Telemundo’s growth were considerably higher than the English-language networks that saw YoY gains.

The growth has advertisers and buyers taking note, and means advertisers are flocking to some Spanish-language networks after years of underinvestment.

“This is a market that every category should be doubling down on from an investment perspective,” said Michael Roca, managing director of DE&I investment at Omnicom Media Group.

Numbers game

There are a number of factors contributing to audience growth in Spanish-language TV. One of them is simple: there are a lot of people who are potential viewers.

In 2020, there were more than 62 million Hispanic people in the US, accounting for nearly 19% of the total US population, according to data from the Census Bureau; that’s up 23% compared to a decade prior.

“If you’re a marketer, your job is to find growth for your brands, and more and more, your job is to find customers for your brand,” said Dan Riess, EVP and chief growth officer at TelevisaUnivision. “When you really look at the American landscape, that boils down almost entirely, for almost every brand, to the Hispanic consumer.”

Many brands, though, have often assumed Hispanic audiences could be reached primarily through English-language platforms since many are bilingual, Riess said.

“We hear a lot that ‘Hispanics are part of the general landscape of America now,’ and that’s actually true to some extent,” Riess said. “But at the same time, there’s a lot of exclusivity in terms of our audience not watching other things.”

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There’s another potential reason for a lag in investment in Spanish-language media: traditional TV measurement has historically undercounted Hispanic and other minority audiences. While the issue is more widespread than any single measurement firm, Roca and Riess said, Roca pointed to Nielsen’s undercount of TV audiences during the pandemic as a recent example. At the time, the Video Advertising Bureau trade group found that Black and Hispanic viewership numbers were disproportionally affected, and that billions of ad impressions were lost.

“As [measurement is] getting ironed out, marketing is starting to really understand the power of this audience at the same time that the audience is growing in power,” Riess said.

Poco a poco

Slowly but surely, more advertisers are eyeing the Spanish-language space. According to data provided to Marketing Brew by Standard Media Index, investment in Spanish-language networks overall has seen 9% growth in back-to-back years; between October 2021 and July 2022, the linear Spanish-language networks SMI measured earned a combined $1.5 billion in ad revenue.

While retail, telecom, and QSR brands have regularly spent on Univision, new advertisers from theatrical releases, pharma, and the financial world are turning their attention to the network, Riess said. In the past two years, he said, Univision has increased the number of brands on-air by more than 200.

“We still don’t have the number of brands with us that a general-market media company would have, so there’s still a long way to go, but brands in general have certainly started to pick up the pace,” Riess said.

At Omnicom, using Spanish-language media to supplement broad media buys can help improve the reach and results of campaigns, Roca said.

“Not only does it kind of bring the reach against the Hispanic audience to par with the rest of the general population, but it actually lifts the overall reach,” Roca said. “A rising tide lifts all boats, and I think the beauty of [what] Spanish-language does is that it brings you this unduplicated audience that you’re just not getting on English-language media.”

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