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Spanish-Language VOD Rising

11 Apr, 2006 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Warner Home Video's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Blockbuster Inc. recently announced it was ceasing operations in Spain due to piracy and increased consumer use of digital television, including video-on-demand (VOD).

Last month, Warner Bros. International TV Distribution began offering VOD movies to Spanish telecom operator Telef?nica. Titles included Batman Begins, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Polar Express and House of Wax.

The burgeoning VOD market in Spain should be considered old news in the United States, where Spanish-language television and on-demand programming have been flourishing over the past 12 months.

Time Warner Cable in Los Angeles reportedly has about 350,000 subscribers to its year-old Nuestra Tele on Demand, which features music, mysteries, alternative medicine and spirituality programming.

Last summer, Telemundo (owned by NBC Universal) began offering on-demand, uncensored editions of its popular talk show “Laura (Laura Sin Censura).”

Cable giant Comcast Corp. has separate deals with Fox Sports en Español and Mexico's Canal 52MX to collectively provide up to 25 hours of VOD programming for its Cable Latino, Selecto Hispanic and On Demand en Español VOD services.

“The fact is that Spanish connects on an emotional and visceral level with Hispanics in a way that English does not,” said Jose Cancela, principal of Hispanic USA, a Miami-based marketing firm.

Hispanic USA commissioned a study that challenged a long-held assumption that use of Spanish decreases among Latino households in succeeding generations.

The study found that the number of Spanish-dominant and bilingual Latinos would increase 45% over the next two decades, adding about 12.4 million primarily Spanish-speakers to the population.

In addition, by 2025, the number of Spanish-speaking U.S. Latinos would top 40.2 million, compared to today's 27.8 million. About 66% of Latino children will speak Spanish 20 years from now. About 35% of third-generation Latinos in the United States speak Spanish.

More important, the coveted 18-to-49-year-old Latino demographic is projected to increase by 7.5 million in 2025 and include 59% of all U.S. Spanish-language speakers.

In addition to soccer, professional wrestling continues to thrive in the Latino community. So much so that World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) last year bowed a series of Spanish-language VOD programming.

“Hispanic viewers are among the most loyal groups of pay-per-view and WWE consumer product buyers we've identified,” said Tom Barreca, EVP of WWE Enterprises. “As a frequent ratings leader among this valuable demo, we believe WWE can help our distributors attract legions of Hispanic fans to new platforms like VOD, and retain thereafter.”

The success of Los Angeles-based English-language Latino network S? TV, which offers six hours of VOD programming monthly, has prompted other entertainment companies to mine the English-speaking Latino market with its reported $600 billion to $800 billion annual purchasing power.

MTV Español later this year will transform into bilingual MTV TR3s (pronounced tr?s), according to AdAge. Launched in 1998, MTV Español reaches 3.1 million Latino households in the United States.

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