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Latino Youth Movement

11 Apr, 2006 By: Angelique Flores

It's all about the young people. Buoyed by statistics that show the median age of Latinos living in the United States is 26.5, compared to 38 for Americans in general, DVD marketers are stepping up their efforts to reach the youth market by releasing hipper, trendier product and focusing on viral Web-based marketing and other cutting-edge strategies.

So said attendees April 11 at the third annual Latino DVD Conference, produced by Home Media Retailing in partnership with The Hollywood Reporter and DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

“Latino youth are proud to be Latinos now, more than previous generations,” said Greta Nodar, director of sales and Latin programming for Image Entertainment. This makes them more likely to buy movies and other programming featuring Latino stars telling Latino stories, and not just the latest U.S. blockbusters.

But reaching these Latino youth involves more than mass-market advertising, according to Julio Noriega, director of the film division for Venevision International. He said Latino youth are “great at multitasking and exploring new technology and online possibilities.

As a result, marketing Latino DVDs is focusing more on viral and Internet campaigns, including the posting of trailers and clips.

“You have to customize it for the youth,” said Elart Coello, president of Laguna Productions.

On the retail level, this reverse-aging of the Latino market has led to more of a focus on mass merchants like Wal-Mart and Target Stores, which have even introduced dedicated Latino sections in stores located in areas with large Hispanic populations.

And yet, marketers at the conference were quick to stress the continued importance of smaller, independent retailers — not so much video rental stores as family-owned general merchandise and other stores.

Of particular, and growing, importance: music stores, which isn't surprising, given the popularity of music-based films as well as music DVDs of reggaeton and other Latino artists.

The power of the Latino youth market was underscored during the morning research supersession. Presenter Adriana Olivares, from the Univision Television Group, noted that the U.S. Latino population — which now stands at an estimated 42.9 million people — continues to grow at a rapid clip, with Latinos accounting for 49% of the total U.S. population growth between 2000 and 2004.

Over the next five years, Latino consumer spending is on track to increase from $716 billion to more than $1 trillion, and by 2025 Latino spending is projected to clock in at $3.1 trillion, Olivares said.

Fueling this growth, she said, is the Latino youth market, which tends to skew higher than the overall market in entertainment consumption, including watching TV (28 hours a week, compared with 17 hours for the average American), DVD purchases and DVD rentals.

Oliveres further noted that 89% of Latino households speak at least some Spanish at home, with only 11% speaking English only — a statistic that drives home the need for more Spanish-language product.

Accordingly, there's been a sharp upswing in the domestic release of Spanish-language DVDs, according to data provided by Ralph Tribbey, editor of weekly industry tip sheet The DVD Release Report.

Last year, suppliers released 529 Spanish-language DVD titles, up from 381 in 2004, 317 in 2003 and just 107 in 2002, Tribbey said.

Since the DVD format was launched in 1997, a total of 1,383 Spanish-language DVD titles have been released in the United States, accounting for nearly 31% of all foreign-language titles released in that time frame.

Tribbey echoed other panelists' sentiments that TV DVD represents a big growth area for Spanish-language product, particularly telenovelas. Music DVD also is pegged for growth, he said.

In a panel discussion about niche product, speakers stressed the growing importance of children's video.

“There are so many bilingual families that as much as possible we try to make sure all of our kids' product has Spanish-language tracks,” said Lionsgate's Michael Rathauser.

Monica Ricardez of the Tower Records and Video retail chain said in her stores niche Latino product is not only sectionalized, but also grouped by category, such as fitness, soccer, telenovela and inspirational.

“We may not sell a full box of everything, but we try to have representation for our customers,” she said.

Leigh Savidge, president of Xenon Pictures, said convincing retailers to carry Latino product can still be a challenge, given the saturation of mainstream Hollywood product.“Retailers don't want to hear that you just have to get Latin product in stores,” he said. “They want to hear success stories and numbers to back it up.”

And in a closing panel that featured five creative forces behind Latino films, speakers cited an overall scarcity of quality Spanish-language product, despite escalating demand.

Writer and actor Rick Najera cited a dearth of comedies. He and other panelists also called for more English-language productions “telling not just Latino stories, but Latino-American stories,” according to Moctesuma Esparza, a veteran producer whose credits include Selena.

“Latino is a flavor and a culture that can be in both English and Spanish,” Najera said.

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