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Latin Video Explosion

1 Aug, 2002 By: Joan Villa


With the spotlight on Latino music and celebrities, and more than 35 million U.S. Hispanics eager to flex their growing buying power, studios and retailers are putting out the bienvenidos (welcome) mat to Spanish-language videos that reach this underserved market.

Hispanic economic clout is energizing the U.S. economy, concluded a recent study by the University of Georgia, which projected Hispanic buying power exploding from $580.5 billion in 2002 to $926 billion in 2007, a rate nearly three times that of Anglos.

While seven states currently boast Hispanic populations of more than 1 million -- Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas -- Hispanics also are the fastest-growing minority throughout areas of the Midwest and Southeast, including Georgia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas.

Thirty percent of Hispanic households own DVD players, according to Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, the latest studio to embrace the trend with eight Spanish-language DVDs set for Sept. 3 release. The initial wave, including Charlie's Angels, A Knight's Tale and Stuart Little, will be followed by two to three more titles quarterly.

Hispanics comprise 15 percent of total DVD buyers and make up “an extraordinarily large and active group” consuming home entertainment, noted Fritz Friedman, SVP, worldwide publicity. “When you have those kinds of numbers and you're not addressing them, you're doing a disservice.”

Studios Tailor Package to Audience
While studios have issued Spanish-language VHS lines in the past, today's titles, in DVD especially, offer a complete package to reach the market. Now, “it's not just the film now that's Spanish language, it's the menus, the value-added materials, the packaging -- it's an entirely Spanish product,” Friedman explained.

Tailoring product to the audience is critical, concluded 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The studio crafted a new “Fox En Español” line in April and saw subsequent sales jump 300 percent year-over-year in the category, with dubbed versions outselling subtitles by nearly 68 percent, explained Peter Staddon, SVP of marketing.

The studio ran an advertising test in the San Antonio and Albuquerque, N.M., markets earlier this year and learned it had to be more selective with the media message in the Hispanic market and resist simply translating an existing campaign to Spanish language. Now Fox is rolling out the program to more stores within the initial test and educating other retailers on how to reach the Hispanic market, which skews toward a younger population that impacts sales patterns like a baby boom, Staddon said.

While Hispanic consumers still enjoy VHS, he believes that will change quickly. “Ultimately the market is moving from analog to digital,” he said.

Retailers Expect Explosive Growth
The Hispanic market has always been a focus for Amarillo, Texas-based Hastings Entertainment, which carries Spanish-language videos for sale and rental in about two-thirds of its 140 superstore locations in the South and Midwest.

“We've done some specific target-marketing events around radio and newspaper, often utilizing the media of that demographic,” explained Victor Fuentes, senior director of video product. “We believe this is a market with potential for explosive growth.”

Once Latin consumers find retailers who understand their tastes, they become avid, loyal customers, insists Anthony Perez, president of Ground Zero Entertainment. The studio's new Spanish line, Aztlan Media, is releasing five titles a month, beginning with a VHS “rental pack” in August of 25 Spanish-language movies of all stripes -- action, drama and music — to get retailers started in the category for $500, or $20 per unit.

“Latinos watch movies as a family more than any other group, and they take home three to four movies a night,” Perez said. “It takes a little while to train and let the customer know these titles are available” but it pays off at retail, he said.

Hispanic teenagers between 14 and 18 years old are particularly big consumers, with $19 billion in overall spending power that translates into a per capita monthly budget of $320 for discretionary items such as clothing, music and entertainment, Perez added.

Miami-based MTI, which releases Hispanic films under the Delta Entertainment label, said its recent release, The Dope Game, shipped 40,000 units, thanks to the visibility of filmmakers Jose and Eduardo Quiroz and its hip-hop theme.

“What we're trying to do is provide excellent quality films that can appeal to particular segments of these markets,” explained Delta president Joe Kelly Jackson. “We want to show ‘slice-of-life' shots so people of different cultures can see something they relate to on the screen; so people can say, ‘Yes, this is my family, this is my culture.’

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