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The Rise of Spanish Programming in the US

Post Author Take1 / July 1st 2014


America, the melting pot, one of the most cultural diverse countries in the world, and yet American television is dominated by white faces. In the face of this disconnect John Fogelman, CEO of production company FactoryMade Ventures, decided to create El Rey with actor and director Robert Rodriguez. El Rey is a new television network showcasing Latino culture on screen.

The creation of El Rey is an important part of a growing trend for more Spanish programming in the States.

El Rey takes to the throne

El Rey is Spanish for The King but the channel shows all English language programming. This is because, although the programming is designed with a Spanish flavour and Latino casts, its audiences are 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants.

El Rey also aims to break away from typical Latino programming i.e. family-themed shows and music competitions. Instead the network seeks to produce programming that more accurately reflects and speaks to American born Latinos.

More unscripted content

El Rey has several scripted series planned, such as From Dusk till Dawn: The Series, but wants to break into the unscripted market as well. Unscripted, reality-type content is extremely popular. It’s an area on the rise in all countries. Unscripted programming for Latino audiences will represent the young Latino audiences’ bi-cultural lives.

Show concepts range from a barbershop setting, focussing on the staff and patrons (Cutting Crew) to an interview-type show called The Director’s Chair that is already being compared with Inside the Actor’s Studio.

El Rey’s output is joined by Spanish-language broadcaster Univision. Univision has, until recently, only produced Spanish-language show. In the grab for younger, English-speaking Latino audiences Univision has also launched an English-language channel called Fusion. Discovery Channel is also contributing to the rise in Spanish programming with 2 new channels, Discovery en Espanol and Discovery Familia.

Scripted

While El Rey and Univision are making waves and breaking boundaries on network television, streaming service Netflix is also changing the landscape. Popular series Orange is the New Black, an exclusive Netflix production, has cast half a dozen Latina actresses , giving a voice to this cross section of America.

Although the show has been criticised in some circles for remaining largely geared toward white audiences it has also been hailed for its big cast of black and Latina female actors. It’s giving black and Latino actors the chance to flex their creative muscles rather than being pigeon-holed into the ‘black best friend’ role. One episode in the first series actually alludes to the lack of roles given to black women in film and TV. The same can be said of roles for Latinas.

Figures suggest that by 2060 the Latino community in America will account for 31% of the total population. On top of that, the buying power of Latino Americans is predicted to reach US$1.5 billion in 2015. These factors alone mean creating more Spanish programming could be both popular and lucrative.



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