October 22, 2012

When I first heard about the joint venture between ABC and Univision my reaction was one of positive intrigue.

Here were two major media companies about to go after the ever-burgeoning bicultural, bilingual Latino.  And I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the new network would be in English.  But when I heard the new network would be based in Miami I began to wonder whether the parties were really serious about their stated mission.  While Miami can certainly benefit from getting 350 new jobs ("new" would have to be suspect since Univision is based in Miami), I thought that establishing the new venture in Miami might actually undermine the entire proposition.

Relevant content is all about context.

Miami is often referred to as the gateway to Latin America so why would you establish a forward-looking media venture, committed to serving the new and rapidly growing, English-preferred Latino, in a region that is Spanish-language-centric?  Second, why would you situate yourself in the oldest (by average age) Hispanic market in the country?  Third, why would you select the smallest and most disconnected Hispanic metropolis among LA, NYC and Miami?  By disconnected I mean, segregated from the rest of US Hispanic America, but very much connected to things Latin American.  This would have implications on the journalistic approach to covering things American Latino.

I also believe that it's important to project a message that is reflective of that dual American Latino aspiration: celebrate my unique Latin culture but make me feel like I'm part of the American mainstream.  In many ways, Miami is an island (I don't need to go into all of the familiar clichés).   A public that is so wired and connected, and aspires to be made part of the whole, will be ill-served if journalists live on that island.

But then the cynic in me rationalized the decision.   ABC had defered to Univision, and the edict for cheap labor had reared its proverbial head.

But that cynical rationalization bothered me.  Why would a TV network owned by a hugely successful media parent aim for the lowest common denominator?  After all, its sister sports network (ESPN) has made wise decisions to expand from its Connecticut base to Los Angeles on both the English-language and Spanish-language fronts.

New York, Los Angeles, or Houston would have made better homes for a forward-looking American Latino network.  These markets are larger, more diverse (more multinational and more multi-ethnic, not just Latino diverse), and more reflective of the diversity of the US Hispanic consumer segment.  Moreover, they all have vast Latino talent pools (unless, of course your orientation is Spanish-language), and ABC has large production facilities in both NYC and LA.  The commitment to properly serving the information needs of an increasingly sophisticated bicultural Latino segment requires a credible investment.

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