A few weeks ago, Forbes named Sofia Vergara the most highly paid actress on television. The Colombian beauty earned an estimated $19 million last year—the majority of it in commercial endorsements. This week, however, the New York Times points out the fact that, despite Vergara’s popularity, the sitcom on which she appears, ABC’s Modern Family, is not a hit with Latinos. Hispanics count for less than 6% of the show’s overall viewership of 12.9 million.
The same holds true for all the top shows on English-language network TV. CBS’s Two and a Half Men averaged 611,000 Hispanic viewers out of an average total of 14.6 million viewers. ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy averaged 583,000 out of 10.9 million. Fox’s Glee averaged 518,000 out of 8.7 million, and top-rated NCIS on CBS averaged 509,000 out of 19.1 million.
Luis Miguel Messianu, CCO of Miami-based Alma, offers this explanation in a recent article in AdWeek:
“This “struggle” goes back to the most basic premise of communication: understand your audience. It’s that simple. How in the world do the networks expect to appeal in a relevant way to the growing Hispanic population if they continue to portray Latinos in a stereotypical and often condescending way?”
But while Messianu thinks only the English-language networks are stereotyping and condescending to Latinos, one commenter begs to differ:
“I would challenge anyone to not find 90% of Univision’s (and, honestly, of the other networks) [content] stereotypical. I mean, take any telenovela: the bad guys are really really bad; the good ones are really really good, the storylines are fairly simplistic and with a few honorable exceptions… haven’t changed in ages. Yet, people routinely watch them.
I’d go one further and say that the other hit shows Messianu mentions on English-languge TV don’t contain Latino stereotypes, yet Latinos aren’t watching them, either. There must be another culprit. My guess is language and, perhaps, a cultural double standard.”
Messianu seems to buy into that double standard, too:
“Spanish networks continue to thrive by reaching a strong segment of the Hispanic population, in general a bit older and more traditional, mostly foreign born. They are keen on content about their passions: music, sports, news from back home and novelas (for which, by the way, the roles are developed by Latinos for Latinos, understanding that it’s OK to be reminded of our origins, cultural nuances and even shortcomings, by our own people, which clearly makes a difference).”
It doesn’t make a difference to everyone. We would rather watch Modern Family than a telenovela anyday, proving that, at the end of the day, you can’t lump all Latinos in one demographic. It would be like lumping all men or all white people or all left-handed people. There are a dozen subsets within all of those and branders would do well to know which market they are aiming to woo.