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Univision grows along with Hispanics

Monitors in an empty Univision studio play the latest telenovela at the headquarters of Univision Networks in Miami-Dade County.

By 2050, minorities will be the majority in America due in large part to an explosion in the Hispanic population. Which is great news for Univision. The Hispanic media giant already offers 12 networks, 62 radio stations and 69 local TV stations to the growing group of viewers. But why stop there?

The newsroom at the Miami-Dade headquarters of Univision Networks looks like any other newsroom in America. But it sounds different. Reporters and producers shout in Spanish across the cubicles about a new school shooting in Texas. CNN blares across the control room in English while a reporter conducts an interview over the phone in Spanish.

And there’s something else that’s different about the news operation at Univision. It’s growing.

“We have created in the past two years an investigative unit, we are opening new offices, we are sending a new correspondent to the border…” says Isaac Lee, president of news at Univision. Lee adds that Univision is also launching the first ever 24-hour news network geared toward Hispanics that speak English. It’s an effort to keep the eyeballs of second- and third-generation Hispanics on Univision programming.

The set of Univision's evening news program

But it’s not as if Univision’s having trouble attracting young viewers. The network often beats out the majors -- ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox -- when it comes to the coveted 18 to 35 demographic.

Every year, 50,000 Hispanics turn 18, and Univision is creating scripted and news programming specifically for those people. “I don’t think it’s something we had to do, but who would do better than us? Who understands the Hispanic community better than we do? And when you are doing so well, the only thing you cannot do is sit and wait for things to change.”

Lee says the mainstream networks are missing out on a major growth opportunity by ignoring Hispanics. Hispanics have 1.3 trillion dollars in purchasing power, Lee says. “[Hispanics] are spending more, they’re brand loyal, the community is growing and they are business savvy.”

And they want good old fashioned news. “When you ask Univision viewers what is the number one reason why they watch Univision, the big majority, more than 60 percent, will tell you it’s because of the news,” says Lee. And it’s not because Univision presents an echo chamber to its audience, a criticism other niche new broadcasters like MSNBC and Fox news have faced.

“We are not to the left, we are not to the, right, we do not have any affiliation with a political party. But we do have a point of view and our point of view is to be pro-Hispanic,” Lee says.  

Univision President of News Isaac Lee (left) and Univision Strategic Communications Manager Jose Zamora (right)

“For us it’s very clear -- the roll of the Hispanic community. If you look at the presidential inauguration, Justice Sotomayor gave the swearing oath to the vice president, you have a Hispanic reverend and Hispanic poet. If that’s not a clue of what the country is changing, then something is really wrong.”

CORRECTION: In an earlier version of the story, we stated that Hispanics would be the majority in America by 2050. The story has been corrected to reflect that minorities as an aggregate will become the majority.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

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