Spanish-Language Media Battle for Eyes and Ears of Los Angeles Hispanics
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ This city’s swelling Hispanic population has caused an explosion of Spanish-language media, attracting a surge of investors eager to benefit from an industry generating $60 million a year in advertising.
″You’re going to see more of them coming into the marketplace,″ said Daniel Villanueva, an executive at television station KMEX. ″In Spanish we call them convenencieros (opportunists). It’s opportune money. It’s smart money.″
Last December Rep. Cecil Heftel, D-Hawaii, and San Diego businessman Kenneth Wolt paid $40 million for Spanish-language radio station combination KLVE and KTNQ, the most paid for a single-city AM-FM pair at the time.
″We think we’re at the crest of a rising tide,″ said Wolt. ″All of a sudden people are discovering the (Spanish) market. We saw this as a tremendous opportunity and intend to keep both stations in Spanish.″
Reliance Capital Group of New York City and other investors converted UHF Channel 52 to Spanish-language station KVEA after buying it for $30 million. President Joe Wallach, former director of Brazil’s Globo-TV, launched the station with a $500,000 advertising blitz in November.
″There are about 3.4 million Hispanics in greater Los Angeles. You’re talking about a very, very nice market,″ said Frank Cruz, KVEA vice president. ″The advertisers see it and they want to reach that market. The easiest way to do it is through Hispanic media.″
In print, new Spanish-language media players include the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, connected to Noticias del Mundo, a Spanish-language daily newspaper launched in 1984. Mexican investors plan to open the city’s third Spanish- language daily, El Diario, soon.
In 1984, country and western AM station KZLA was switched to Spanish station KSKQ after it was bought for approximately $5 million by New Yorkers Raul Alarcon Jr., Raul Alarcon Sr. and Jose Grimalt, said Ligiah Villalobos, a sales assistant.
Managers of older Spanish-language media report the new competitive environment has helped them.
″This market is expanding so much that we are absorbing the new media,″ said Villanueva, who added that KMEX posted record sales after KVEA hit the air. ″It appears they’ve created some new audience. We have the numbers where we were before and they have some people, too.″
″We’re doing very well,″ said Jose Lozano, whose grandfather founded La Opinion newspaper in 1926. He reports circulation grew 16 percent between 1984 and 1985 and advertising was up 20 percent in 1985.
The newcomers have brought more awareness of Hispanic media among possible readers and advertisers, Lozano said. The older media also have become more competitive.
Last September La Opinion hired its own circulation employees to replace the independent contractors who used to stock the paper in newsstands and markets. It also has targeted free sample papers and subscription calls to prime Hispanic areas around downtown Los Angeles.
″The competition has been good for the Spanish-language media and for the community,″ said Rafael Prieto, a former La Opinion staffer who edits Noticias del Mundo. ″It has forced La Opinion to improve. There is better coverage than before.″
Villanueva said KMEX added a new news crew after KVEA went on the air. He feels there is room for a third Los Angeles Spanish-language television station and predicts at least two more radio stations will switch to Spanish.
With more Hispanic media, advertisers are more choosy than a decade ago, when one daily newspaper, one TV station and two radio stations competed for Los Angeles Hispanics.
Hispanic Business magazine calls Los Angeles the top Hispanic media market, with $30 million for television, $22 million for radio and $7.2 million for print advertising in 1985. Nationally, advertisers spent an estimated $333.5 million to reach Hispanics in 1985, up 17 percent from $284.5 million in 1984.
Media directors for Hispanic advertising agencies say clients now fine-tune their appeals to segments of the Hispanic audience, just as they do with advertising in English.
″Los Angeles is a terrific Spanish radio town because we’ve got five viable stations,″ said Mario Lazo of Mendoza and Dillon in Newport Beach. ″They (the stations) have to know who they are and where they want to be. ‘Do I want the young people or the housewives, or to go after men?’
″They are conscious of how they format and who they go after,″ Lazo said. He cited KWKW with traditional Mexican music; KALI and KSKQ with pop music; and KTNQ with the most popular disc jockey.
In television KVEA also wants to distinguish itself from KMEX by offering different programs.
″It’s largely alternative, counter-programming,″ said KVEA’s Wallach. ″If someone is watching a novela (on KMEX), maybe you can have a documentary. It’s giving the viewer a choice.″
Both KMEX and KVEA offer entertainment shows produced in Latin America. But KVEA also airs Spanish-dubbed versions of such U.S. movies as ″Dr. Zhivago″ and television programs, such as ″Medical Center.″
In print, Prieto says an in-house survey showed Noticias del Mundo has drawn relatively new immigrant waves from Central and South America. He says the newspaper has a weekday press run of 30,000, with many readers buying La Opinion on weekends.
English-language media also eye the growing Hispanic audience. Television station KTLA simulcasts Spanish dialogue for news and some entertainment shows. Disc jockeys on oldies-but-goodies radio station KRLA sometimes give call letters in Spanish and English.