CNN is the latest major media organization to try to woo Latinos. (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images )
Looking to tap the wealth of U.S. Latinos, CNN is planning to introduce a Spanish-language programming service tailored for broadcast TV stations next year.
The service, CNN Latino, is being designed as an eight-hour programming block featuring news, documentaries, talk shows and lifestyle programming. It is expected to launch in late January in Los Angeles on independent station KBEH-DT Channel 63 and eventually be carried by TV stations in other cities.
CNN Latino comes 15 years after the Atlanta-based news organization launched CNN en Español, a 24-hour Spanish-language news network available in about 30 million homes in Latin America and 7 million homes in the United States. CNN en Español also provides news feeds for Spanish-language radio stations.
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With CNN Latino, the company is attempting to diversify by providing a syndicated block of entertainment shows — not just news — to share in the increasing amount of advertising dollars being steered to Latino outlets. CNN's goal is to compete with established Spanish-language networks.
"We are trying to appeal to bilingual Latinos in the U.S., those who feel 100% American and 100% Latino," said Cynthia Hudson-Fernández, general manager of CNN en Español and Hispanic strategy for CNN. "This is an alternative to existing networks. We feel that there is a huge opportunity for this type of programming."
CNN is the latest major media organization to try to woo Latinos. For years, three Spanish-language broadcasters — Univision Communications, NBCUniversal's Telemundo and Azteca America, the U.S. arm of Mexico's TV Azteca — primarily battled for Spanish-language viewers.
But the estimated 50 million Latinos living in the United States have increasing clout in the market. Earlier this fall, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. launched a Spanish-language broadcast network, MundoFox, in collaboration with Colombian powerhouse RCN Television. Walt Disney Co.'s ABC News is teaming with Univision to create a 24-hour news channel — in English — that should roll out early next year. Cable giant Comcast Corp. is bankrolling an effort to create niche English-language cable channels to reach bilingual Latinos.
Marketers and media companies have been divided on which language to use to reach the largest audience. Some are opting for English to appeal to bilingual viewers, while others see Spanish as the best vehicle to attract both. At least half of U.S. Latinos are fluent in Spanish.
Hector Orci, co-founder of Orci, an L.A. marketing agency, said last month's presidential election underscored Latinos' power as they turned out to help reelect President Obama.
"That is a great lesson for marketers," Orci said. "The election proved that the person who spoke to people in Spanish won the election. It's the same for products. If you speak to us, we will be there."
By offering a syndicated block to broadcast stations, CNN Latino is targeting an audience that may not subscribe to pay TV channels. The eight-hour block, which will include a locally produced public-affairs show focusing on L.A. issues, is scheduled to run from 3 to 11 p.m. on KBEH, owned by the small Hero Broadcasting.
NBCUniversal's Telemundo also introduced a Sunday morning current-affairs program, "Enfoque Los Angeles," this year to raise its profile in the nation's largest Latino media market.
Orci said he is encouraged by media companies' interest in producing home-grown shows.
"The Hispanic model of television has been to get it from other countries and hope it works here," Orci said. "We have been waiting for someone to try the more expensive American TV model of investing, testing and often losing before finding shows that work."
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