Univision Communications Inc. capped the annual round of Upfront events from Latino-centered networks last Tuesday morning.
Venue: Lyric Theater on W. 43rd St., one of the oldest Broadway musical showplaces in existence, and home to this event the last few years. A big, bright, blue "U" in the center of the stage (representing the company's logo) was visible to attendees as they found their seats. One pre-show attraction here that others should copy is the use of screens on stage to display pertinent factoids. Univision goes one step further -- mix up the factoids to address a number of topics, whether viewership, the size and spending power of its key audience, or unique advertiser initiatives. "While nine sports networks had ratings declines (last year), Univision Deportes went up 33 percent with adults 18-49," according to one factoid. Bright, colorful graphics enhance the appeal of these info nuggets. Grade: 4 Jacks
Presentation: In a departure from past events, the focus shifted from how individual Univision services are valuable for both viewers andadvertisers to how individual programming genres -- or "passion points," as nicknamed by UCI’s President of Ad Sales and Marketing Keith Turner (pictured) and Executive Vice President Steve Mandala -- deliver value across all company-owned services. Five genres received in-depth attention via their own segments, covering sports, news, family programming, music and drama. These points "hold people's attention," Turner explained. "This will be the only Upfront helping you engage with the most important audience."
That U.S. Latino community, expected to top 60 million later this year, is together with other communities of color transforming the nature of entertainment and technology. "Multicultural is fast becoming mainstream media," Mandala added. En route to those segments, he addressed concerns that Univision's primetime ratings are tumbling, thanks to stepped-up original content from rivals. "We had some make-up work to do," he acknowledged, referring to some viewer slippage late last year and early 2017. However, thanks to recent schedule adjustments, such as introducing family-suited talent hours weeknights at 8 p.m., ratings are on the upswing. Trouble in "U" city? "That's a crock of shift," Mandala declared (turning a key word from a close rival's tagline). "We're still the No. 1 Spanish-language network, with (sister network) UniMas No. 2, and both saw growth year-over-year. No. 1 is not a lonely number today," he asserted. Grade: 4 Jacks
News: The 8 p.m. family talent hour will continue with A Jugar en Familia/Keep It In the Family, where kids dictate the rules of this competition (executive produced by Simon Cowell) and Tu Cara Me Suena/Your Face “Sounds” Familiar, with celebrities impersonating icons in a number of music styles. Univision's Story House Entertainment unit will put together Barrio Records, a weekly scripted serial on the reggaeton movement, and do a second season of acclaimed Netflix co-production El Chapo. (Read more about El Chapo here.) Two upcoming telenovelas will have unique family plotlines: Mi Marido Tiene Familia/My Husband Has a Family (extended family dramedy) and Papa a Todo Madre/The Mother of All Dads (business owner becomes single father). A globe-trotting organized crime empire saga (El Ultimo Dragon/The Last Dragon) and a bio miniseries of Spanish-language music superstar Luis Miguel will also turn up next season. For sports, Univision and Univision Deportes will cover the UEFA Champions League for the first time and be the first to carry a new event from that soccer power, the Nations League tournament, in the fall of 2018. When the World Cup unfolds that summer from Russia, both networks will present comprehensive pre- and post-match programming, plus nightly multi-hour recap coverage with entertainment features. The most far-reaching development: Fusion TV forming a “creative board” to identify and build a pipeline for the next generation of diverse TV creators. Key members include actress/content makers Viola Davis, Jodie Foster and Meryl Streep, Peabody-winning producer Ezra Edelman (O.J.: Made In America) and chairperson Henry Louis Gates Jr. Grade: 4 Jacks
Host: Turner and Mandala handled their roles with ease and enthusiasm. Grade: 3.5 Jacks
Star Turn: For the first time, performances kicked things off, wrapped things up and spiced up the midsection. Music star on the rise Becky G grooved at the start with backup dancers moving down the aisles to join in, while superstar Shakira, her band and outstanding lighting effects delivered a knockout pair of closing tunes (her new single I Fell in Love, followed by smash hit Hips Don't Lie). The welcome surprise was a maxi-melody midway through featuring contestants from current and upcoming competition series, including the winners of Pequenos Gigantes USA/Little Giants USA. Grade: 4.5 Jacks
Cuisine: No after-event lunch from Gotham Hall or another venue for the first time in years. Unbelievable. No Jacks score. (Note: Cuisine ratings do not figure into the overall Jacks score.)
Data Insight: UCI’s assortment of TV networks and online services reach more than 108 unduplicated consumers a month. That's a 34 percent year-over-year increase (from spring 2016). Local news at Univision's broadcast affiliates in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas are top-ranked in their time periods among all TV stations in their markets, regardless of language. Grade: 3 Jacks
Innovative Opportunity: Ongoing sponsorships within news programming, including nightly news, multi-hour morning dayparts and late afternoon newsmagazine hours, through a new "Editorial Calendar" campaign. Grade: 3.5 Jacks
Overall Grade: 4 Jacks Sparkling well-rounded affair, thanks to the new focus on programming genres. Do wish more about UniMas and Galavision's future original programming was incorporated in the format. One more note: It's about time Fusion TV and El Rey Network break loose and do events of their own.
Next up: Turner Networks
Our Jacks rating system in a nutshell: 5 Jacks – Excellent, 4 Jacks -- Very Good, 3 Jacks – Good, 2 Jacks –Fair, 1 Jack – Poor, 0 Jacks -- Don't go there!
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