Telenovelas: Must-See TV, for Advertisers
Ratings outstrip all four major networks.
It may sound like just another senseless soap opera, but the industry's assembly line-like production of over-the-top dramas is one of the few things keeping advertisers from pulling out of TV altogether.
In a year in which 2 advertising mainstays, FedEx (FDX) and General Motors (GM), announced they would not be producing their annual Super Bowl spots, a number of advertisers have instead been eyeing the Spanish-language soap operas - particularly given the fact that the Hispanic population of the US is expected to triple by 2050.
Among Latin America's greatest exports, telenovelas have gained a following even in global markets without a Spanish-speaking population, including Israel, Malaysia, Singapore, and large chunks of Africa and Eastern Europe. As a result, Spanish-language cable station Telemundo has become primetime's fastest-growing broadcast network.
The little brother to NBC-owned Univision saw its viewership increase 13% from 2007 to 2008, largely among the coveted 18-49 demographic. The network estimates that roughly 40% of its ad revenue is generated by weeknight telenovelas.
Attracting advertisers like McDonald's and Walgreen's, these series are cheap to produce and attract a cult-like following; as such, they provide something of a haven in a difficult economic climate.
Which brings us back to Televisa and their upcoming slate of programs. The Mexican production house has had a hand in telenovelas' global proliferation. Since signing an exclusive production deal with Univision in 1992, Televisa has helped the channel's ratings outpace those of all 4 network broadcasters (CBS (CBS), NBC (GE), Fox (NWS), and ABC (DIS)). The network has become so dependent on telenovelas that it willingly incurred a $24 million fine from the FCC for replacing parts of their children's programming with the popular soap operas.
But with the telenovela propping up TV advertising in some part -- and the Univision-Televisa partnership in a state of flux -- that lucrative landscape could be shifting soon.
For the past few years, Univision and Televisa have been entangled in a lawsuit over the terms of the companies' original contract, as well as monies the TV producer claims it's owed by Univision. Should Televisa become a free agent, able to offer its series to other channels, one of TV's last moneymakers could undergo a swift business makeover.
All of which fits nicely among some of the world's most salacious soap operas.
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