'Desperate Housewives' woos Spanish speakers

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Sat Sep 10 15:24:23 UTC 2005

>>From the Guardian (UK)

Desperate Housewives woo Spanish. ABC network out to win lucrative
Hispanic market in the US by dubbing all its prime-time shows

Dan Glaister in Los Angeles
Saturday September 10, 2005

Forget Desperate Housewives. Think Las Damas de Casa Desesperadas. ABC,
the channel behind the women of Wisteria Lane and one of the big four
television networks in the United States has announced that it is to dub
or subtitle all of its prime-time shows into Spanish. This is the first
time that one of the major American networks has made such a direct move
to tempt Spanish-speaking viewers to its English-language programming.
With a population of about 40 million, according to the 2003 census,
people who originate from Spanish-speaking countries comprise 13.7% of the
US population. Hispanics are the fastest-growing minority in the country.

Despite the figures, they have been all but ignored by the big networks.
Instead, viewers who wish to watch Spanish-language TV are catered for by
two US-based Spanish channels, Univision and Telemundo. Mexican channels
such as Galavisin also command sizeable audiences in the US. Up to now,
ABC had aired only the George Lopez Show, a sitcom, in both Spanish and
English-language versions. "We wanted to move beyond toe-dipping and
really dive in," Stephen McPherson, ABC's entertainment president, said in
a statement. "Almost half of the 41 million Hispanics in this country
watch only or mostly Spanish-language television, and we want to bring
that audience to ABC."

The Hispanic audience is a lucrative one - the dream demographic for
advertisers and TV executives alike. The average age for the country's
Hispanic population is 25, compared with 38 for the Anglo population and
29 for African-Americans. About 11 million Hispanic households are thought
to have televisions.  Almost half of those households describe themselves
as Spanish-language dominant, while a third say they are English speakers
and 20% are bilingual.

"It makes sense for them to do this," said Harry Pachon, director of the
Toms Rivera Policy Institute in Los Angeles. "It's a demographic
imperative that's happening in the nation. It's showing that the Hispanic
population is developing into a national presence. If it was still
regionalised I don't know if they'd go through the trouble." Of the
Hispanic population in the US, 11.9 million live in California, 7.3
million in Texas, while New York, Florida, Illinois, Arizona and New
Jersey all have Hispanic populations of more than a million.

The Hispanic market - from Green Card holders to undocumented immigrants -
also constitutes a huge share of the US economy. "Legal or illegal,
advertisers still think they have to buy toothpaste in the morning," said
Mr Pachon. But when it comes to the young, the idea of the
Spanish-speaking exiles searching for programmes in their mother tongue is
unreliable. A study carried out in Miami reported that only 2% of Hispanic
high-school children said they watched Spanish-language TV exclusively.

Another study showed that 70% of the children of first-generation
immigrants preferred to watch TV in English, while their parents chose
Spanish. One objection to the move to simply broadcast existing output
dubbed into Spanish is that it will not cater to the needs of the Hispanic
population. Many have argued that the major networks should create
original programming that is relevant to the experience of Hispanic
Americans.  ABC's George Lopez Show is a rare attempt to meet that

But Desperate Housewives may well have a strong appeal for Hispanic
audiences weaned on the unlikely dalliances and improbable melodrama of
Latin American soap operas, known as telenovelas. "There is a lot of
overacting on Spanish TV, too," said Mr Pachon. "Maybe that will make the
transition easier." Mr McPherson of ABC told Reuters news agency that test
screenings of Desperate Housewives to Spanish speakers had exceeded the
network's expectations.

"The show couldn't have gotten more press last year, but we were screening
for people who hadn't seen the show," he said. "What was really
interesting was we were trying to ask questions about the differences in
subtitles and dubbing, and all they wanted to know was how to get more
copies and whether the DVD was going to be available in Spanish."

Guardian Unlimited  Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

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