July 29, 2013

What Univision’s milestone says about U.S. demographics


Spanish-language television reached a new milestone in America. Univision finished first among broadcast networks during July sweeps in two highly sought-after demographics: 18- to 49-year-olds and 18- to 34-year-olds. According to Nielsen, between June 27, 2013, and July 24, 2013, Univision averaged 1.8 million viewers ages 18 to 49 nightly, beating out English-language networks FOX, NBC, CBS and ABC, all of which have been struggling with declining audiences for decades.

This is the first time that Univision has won any sweeps period among this important demographic (though Univision has been tops in daily primetime ratings many times before). CBS is still No. 1 for overall viewership.

Much of Univision’s success has been built on its entertainment offerings; programs such as the telenovela “Amores Verdaderos” outperform English-language competition regularly. But its success is also built on news. In big city markets that have sizable Hispanic populations—such as Los Angeles, New York and Houston—it has the most watched local news shows.

On the surface, Univision’s growth may seem to not square with a new Pew Hispanic Center report that shows a growing share of Hispanics are getting their news in English. But because Hispanics are such a fast growing part of the U.S. population, the number who speak Spanish and who watch television in Spanish has risen even as the share who get their news in Spanish has declined. Univision’s success (and Telemundo’s too) speaks to the growth in the nation’s Spanish-speaking market—today a record 35 million Hispanics speak Spanish at home, up from 10 million in 1980.

At the same time, the language usage patterns of the nation’s Latino population are changing as immigration slows and the young Latinos born in the U.S. enter adulthood. A record 31 million Latinos now speak English proficiently, up from 8 million in 1980. Our studies show that among Latinos born in the U.S., significant majorities get their news in English, watch television shows in English, listen to music in English and even think in English.

However, our studies also show that Latinos value bilingualism. Fully 95% of U.S. Latinos think it’s important for future generations to speak Spanish. And today’s young Latinos are more likely than older Latinos to have heard their parents emphasize the importance of speaking Spanish and the importance of being proud of their heritage.

In response to all these trends, news organizations such as NBC Latino and FOX News Latino have launched English-language news outlets targeted to the Hispanic market. Univision is taking similar steps, with its Univision News Tumblr (in English) and a new English-language cable network that it plans to launch later this year with ABC News, called Fusion.

Topics: Ethnic Media, News Media Trends, Television, Hispanic/Latino Identity

  1. Photo of Mark Hugo Lopez

    is director of Hispanic research at Pew Research Center.


  1. Anne Villa4 years ago

    I’m not convinced. I wonder if those who speak English are more likely to get their news from other sources – particularly from the internet.

    This would certainly skew numbers to make Spanish language news look more significant to Hispanics than it really is.

    And by the way, 2-4 year-old viewing habits were studied, really? That appears to be a not so subtle attempt to skew numbers.

  2. Sebastian Aroca4 years ago

    Great research Mark, I always follow your posts. Regarding bilingualism, I may remind everyone here that there’s a video from Univision named “The New American Reality” which showcases like not other creative work I’ve ever seen how “Bilingualism” is a plus, not a minus. Every time I watch that video, I feel proud to be bilingual and bicultural. PS – El saber hablar y escribir español y entender nuestra cultura Latina, abre puertas!

  3. JollyJim4 years ago

    Of course you know that for Spanish-only speakers Univision is the only choice for news. For English only speakers there are at least five choices so the English market is split five ways and the Spanish market is unified.

    1. Sebastian Aroca4 years ago

      Univision is not the only choice news for Spanish-language speakers. There are several Spanish-language news portals. Just to mention a few:

      1. John4 years ago

        How many Spanish speaking broadcast news stations are there?

        1. Mark Hugo Lopez4 years ago

          Hello John,

          Excellent question! According to a Pew Research Center analysis of BIA/Kelsey data, there are 108 Spanish format television stations that are viable, commercial and that broadcast news.

          Overall, in the U.S. there are 807 local television stations that are viable, commercial and broadcast news.

      2. MGC4 years ago

        You don’t consider the other networks in Spanish .not only Univision , there are so many channel locals and Telemundo, CNN latino just to mention a few and we are not consider minorities because we powered the economy more faster than other groups.