Friday, August 1, 2014

Univision bucks summer doldrums

Summer has traditionally been a slow time for the major broadcast networks in the U.S., as well as for TV audiences.  With viewing numbers down, and the key Fall sweeps coming up, summer has traditionally been a dumping ground for program repeats, a place to test new programs, and a last chance to air contracted (but unaired) episodes of canceled series.  Outside of the occasional big sporting event, there's not much to look forward to on broadcast television.

On the other hand, the lack of quality competition from the big networks gives newcomers an opportunity to counter-program with the best of new programs and episodes. When Fox started, it moved up the starts of some of its better series to the summer.  Putting original episodes of quality programs up against the dregs of big network offerings, gave viewers an incentive to sample and evaluate Fox series and build audiences.

Spanish-language network Univision has been trying to move from a niche network to a challenger to the Big 4.  It's expanded its reach beyond urban areas with high numbers of Hispanics, adding its own stations in larger markets, picking up affiliates, and making a push to get on multichannel basic service tiers.  It's worked to shift its programming focus from airing licensed series from other Latin American networks and channels, to a mix reflecting its goal of being a general-interest broadcaster. 
Among those moves has been developing a strong news presence, expanding and improving its sports coverage (including live game coverage of Latin American soccer and baseball leagues), and putting a major focus on creating original entertainment programming.  And it's starting to be successful.  In the key market demographics for broadcasting (19-34 and 18-49) it's beating monthly ratings for one or more of the Big 4 networks with increasing frequency.  And for the second straight year, its July primetime ratings have come out on top - beating the audience numbers for all of the other US broadcast networks.  It also had the youngest audience (median age 39, vs median age for the Big 4 of 56).

Of course, Univision's ability to outdraw the Big 4 is not only a result of programming acumen.  It's been helped by two long-term trends: declining ratings and shares for the broadcast network as viewers have shifted to and expanding number of viewing alternative; and the fact that Hispanics are the fastest growing demographic group in the U.S.  Still, their successes over time suggest that they've made the move from being a niche service to becoming a fully competitive general-interest network.

Source:  Univision is the #1 Network for the Second Consecutive July Sweep Among Both Adults 18-49 And Adults 18-34, TV by the Numbers.

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