Nov 07, 2019
By Tara Weiss
The free streamer tries to offer something for everyone with 22 wide-ranging Spanish and Portuguese-language channels.
When Pluto TV Latino rolled out 22 Spanish- and Portuguese-language channels in the U.S. this year, its goal was to offer such a wide range of programming that there would be something for everyone in the growing Hispanic market.
It’s a challenging mandate given the complexity and size of the population. Overall, they represent 18% of the American population and have roots in nearly 30 countries. A majority speak Spanish or are bilingual, and about a third were born outside of the U.S.
“The most important thing for anybody serving the U.S. Hispanic market to keep in mind is that there is no silver bullet,” says Adriana Waterston, senior vice president of insights and strategy at Horowitz Research, a firm that specializes in Hispanic and multicultural market research. “One size does not fit all.”
Spanish programming often doesn’t account for preferences that diverge across age groups and cultures within the market.
“Hispanics are a very complex demographic -- diverse by birthplace, country of origin, family’s length of time in this country, dialect, socioeconomic status, and regional culture within the U.S.,” says Christian Kurz, senior vice president of Global Consumer Insights at Viacom.
That's something Pierluigi Gazzolo, president of Viacom International Media Networks, Americas, has said for years. When the El Salvador-native was asked at an internal Viacom panel how Hollywood represents Latinos, he answered succinctly: Terribly.
“They’re mixing and matching cultures in one show,” says Gazzolo. “I’ve seen shows where the mother is Mexican and the son is clearly Colombian. A Mexican is very different from a Colombian. A Colombian is very different from a Mexican.”
"There are all sorts of creative programming ideas we can test with the audience that hasn't been done before."
Pluto TV hopes to offer an alternative that bests all of these options: it’s free and it’s available to everyone with an internet connection.
Another advantage is Pluto’s ability to analyze viewership data live and its ability to remove channels that aren’t performing well and put new ones in their place.
“There are all sorts of creative programming ideas we can test with the audience that hasn't been done before,” says Tom Ryan, co-founder and CEO of Pluto TV. “If they work, we can be nimble and double down on them.”
"It’s bicultural and bilingual young people who are really driving the growth of this market."
Waterston warns against making sweeping generalizations, but says Latinos often live in multi-generational households, which naturally lends itself to generational co-viewing.
For example, a Latinx teen may watch telenovelas with grandparents and English-language content with friends.
“It’s bicultural and bilingual young people who are really driving the growth of this market,” Waterston says.