Austin adds Spanish-language radio, TV stations
By Gary Dinges
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF Published: 6:43 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011
Published: 6:43 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011
Racing to meet the demands of Austin's growing Latino community, area broadcasters are rolling out a variety of Spanish-language offerings.
Some, however, say still more options are needed to adequately serve the city's residents.
Austin has about 278,000 Latinos, according to the latest census figures, accounting for 29 percent of Austin's total population of about 790,000. The vast majority — 83 percent — are of Mexican origin.
One of the most recent additions is a local, over-the-air Telemundo affiliate on one of KEYE's digital subchannels. Telemundo Austin produces two newscasts each weekday, which can be seen on Channel 42.2.
Central Texans previously needed a cable subscription to see the network's national feed, which had no local programming.
"It's great to know there are so many people engaged in Spanish-language TV here in Austin," said Sarykarmen Rivera, who co-anchors the 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts on Telemundo Austin. "The growth we're seeing ... the numbers are outrageous."
ABC affiliate KVUE airs Estrella programming on its 24.2 digital subchannel, one of several Belo-owned stations across the nation to strike a deal with the fledgling network.
And Emmis Broadcasting, a company that focuses almost exclusively on English-language radio stations, launched a regional Mexican music format on 107.1 KLZT-FM.
Known on air as La Z, it is consistently among the city's top 10 radio stations, beating, among others, 94.7 KAMX-FM, 93.3/102.7 KGSR-FM and 98.1 KVET-FM in the most recent average quarter hour ratings from Arbitron.
"We're pretty happy with the results so far," said Chase Rupe, vice president of programming and operations for Emmis. "We've been the No. 1 Spanish-language station pretty much since we launched. We anticipated the station would do pretty well, but we thought it would take a little while to catch on."
With two TV stations and a pair of radio stations, Univision is by far the biggest Spanish-language player in Central Texas.
"They're tough competitors," Emmis' Rupe said. "They do this all over the country."
Univision is also the broadcaster that's been serving the area's Latino community the longest.
"For many Hispanics, we are much more than a TV station," said Javier Ramis, vice president and general manager for Univision station KAKW Channel 62 and its corporate sibling, Telefutura affiliate KTFO. "Often, we are the first friend they make when they move to Austin."
Viewership for the two stations is already high, and it continues to grow. Among Austin's Spanish TV stations, Ramis reports KAKW and KTFO have a combined 74 percent market share.
Univision 62 has produced local news for seven years, Ramis said, and ratings for its 5 p.m. newscast routinely top all Austin stations — English and Spanish — among adults ages 18 to 49.
"Our connection to our viewers is deeper," Ramis said. "We're delivering information that's very critical to their lives and their futures."
Nationally, numbers from Univision show the network's prime-time programs routinely outdraw — sometimes by a 3-to-1 ratio — top-rated shows such as Fox's "American Idol," ABC's "Modern Family" and NBC's "The Voice" among bilingual Hispanics ages 18 to 49, one of the so-called "money demos" advertisers crave.
Prime-time soap operas known as telenovelas are among the top performers. In fact, the 10 highest-rated Spanish-language programs nationwide during the May "sweeps" period were all Univision telenovelas.
Nightly episodes of "Triunfo del Amor" ("Triumph of Love") occupied the top five spots, followed by several episodes of "Teresa."
"The telenovela language is a language that transcends borders in Latin America," Ramis said. "Telenovelas are huge."
Advertisers on Telemundo, Univision and competing networks such as Estrella include many of the companies found on English-language TV.
The five biggest spenders, according to Advertising Age magazine, are Procter & Gamble, Verizon, AT&T, DirecTV and McDonald's.
Procter & Gamble alone spent almost $198 million on Spanish-language ads in the United States during 2010, up 23 percent from 2009.
Locally and across the nation, Spanish broadcasters aren't the only companies benefiting from the growing Latino population.
An estimated 66 percent of Hispanic adults ages 18 and older in the United States watch English and Spanish TV, according to Advertising Age, while 45 percent listen to the radio in both languages.
Barely a month old, locally produced "Viva Latino" is among the TV offerings aiming to appeal to bilingual audiences. Predominantly in English, the lifestyle program focuses on topics such as food and the arts, including a few brief segments that are in Spanish.
"I see a new trend developing," said creator Janell Vela Smith with Iron Dragon Productions. "We embrace our Latin culture, but there are times when we want to hear English. That's what I'm hoping to jump on."
"We get contacted all the time by people looking for quality content that appeals to our Hispanic community," said Erika Dresser, spokeswoman from the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "Spanglish is what's most popular with Latinos here."
Larry Amaro, who works behind the scenes on several locally produced public-access offerings, including Latino music show "Fiesta Musical," is among those in search of quality programming.
Locally and nationally, he says there's just not enough of it, particularly for Mexican Americans.
The big Spanish-language TV networks have to cast a broader net, Amaro said, because they're beamed around the globe.
"I think it's because of resources, moneywise," he said. "They're big businesses, and by taking an international view, they can make more money."
While progress continues to be made, he said, there's more work to be done.
"When you look at the Mexican American population, is there enough media?" he said. "The answer is no."
A sampling of some of the Spanish-language radio and TV offerings in Central Texas:
Telemundo, Channel 42.2
Univision, Channel 62
La Que Buena, 104.3 FM (Regional Mexican)
La Z, 107.1 FM (Regional Mexican)
La Jefa, 107.7 FM (Regional Mexican)
ESPN Deportes, 1260 AM (Sports)
11 a.m. Sunday
Public access Channel 16
11:30 a.m. Sunday
KNVA Channel 54