Azteca America Chief Talks U.S. Hispanic Media Trends


CANCUN: Manuel Abud, the president and CEO of Azteca America, talked about serving U.S. Hispanic audiences in his MIP Cancun keynote today, in conversation with World Screen’s Anna Carugati.

Abud mentioned the “tremendous purchasing power” of the 60-million-strong U.S. Hispanic population, which is estimated at some $1.3 trillion. “It’s about 67 percent Mexican,” Abud said of the population. Like the general market, media consumption has changed within the segment thanks to new platforms. “The other component is the fact that it is an immigrant population, so it has a demographic shift that is important.”

Asked about the U.S. Hispanic television playing field, Abud noted, “Everyone knows how competitive the market is. Telemundo and Univision are fighting for that coveted first place. You have new cable channels coming. But in terms of broadcast there are really three players.”

Azteca America derives most of its content from its parent company, TV Azteca. “We are unapologetically Mexican,” Abud said. “The core of the daytime programming is fulfilled by our parent company.” Prime time presents more opportunity for other content suppliers. “At 7 p.m. we have game shows. And 8 p.m. we have adventure reality. At 10 p.m. we look for content from all over the world.”

Abud was then asked by Carugati about TV Azteca’s new leadership team under CEO Benjamin Salinas Sada and its programming strategy. “The first thing he’s done is surround himself with great leaders. He reinvigorated the team, and now he’s focusing on high-quality productions, challenging the status quo, challenging the traditional Mexican standard programming. And looking for partners and co-production opportunities.”

Carugati asked about how Azteca America is serving bilingual audiences. “Language is the main driver of media consumption, as we all know. There are still 45 million people in the U.S. who speak Spanish. There’s still a lot of consumption [of Spanish-language content]. But the truth is the younger generations are [consuming content] in English. I always make the differentiation between Spanish-language television and Hispanic television. It’s a challenge. The younger generation, the millennials, are wanted by everybody. The Hispanic millennials are the Holy Grail for marketers!”

Addressing multiplatform consumption, Abud noted that rather than getting distracted by new technologies, Azteca has remained focused on “basic television 101, which is still alive and well. At the same time, we are developing different content that will live in the different [platforms]. We are looking at ways to evolve the news business. The traditional [forms] of news delivery need to change. The consumption of content continues to evolve and we have to be very smart about looking at ways to monetize that support the business model.”

Carugati referenced the purchasing power of U.S. Hispanics and asked how that translates into ad opportunities for platforms. Abud said, “For many years, we have been chasing the elusive share of voice and share of dollars in the U.S. Hispanic advertising market. There’s a disparity between the share of voice and the share of dollars. There are still a lot of advertisers who are not playing in our space.”

The conversation moved on to the impact of media consolidation in the U.S. “If you are selling a channel to, say, DIRECTV, you’re competing against the big NBCUniversal, Disney, Fox portfolio of channels. It’s a challenge.”

The discussion then shifted to the recent U.S. presidential election. “For us Americans, there’s been one aspect of our lives that hasn’t quite changed, and that’s politics. That’s not the case with President-elect Trump. Look at the campaign he ran. He was a disruptive element. He was a game-changer. That’s a big takeaway. The second one is, we’re all in the business of storytelling, right? Look at the storytelling component of the election. Look at what this man did. He understood his audience, he knew exactly who he was talking to. He understood exactly what the message needed to be. He crafted that message. He branded himself around that message and he emotionally connected with that audience. You can see the results. For us as storytellers, this is a major lesson on what we do for a living. Understand your audience, craft the proper message to connect emotionally. And then, once you define that route, don’t be afraid to break from the path. Look at that campaign. He offended everybody and their cousin, he lost every single debate, he was behind in the polls, but he won. There’s a major message and a major transformation in terms of political campaigning. And for us as storytellers, there are major takeaways.”

Carugati asked Abud about the role of the telenovela in the schedule today. “I’m not ready to call the death of the novela,” he said, adding that “It is harder and harder to get the attention of people with 200 episodes. Those days are gone. There is a clear desire from the audience to get new content.”

Looking ahead to the next year or two, Abud said, “We’re living in very exciting times. This proliferation of distribution platforms is great news for everyone in this room. There are more and more outlets for your content. The challenges are that all these new ways to get your content are hard to monetize. There are great opportunities for localism, for creating that closer relationship [with your community]. That’s going to come back. For Azteca great times are coming.”