Houston's demographics are changing rapidly, and nowhere is that more apparent than in local TV ratings. According to Nielsen, in the latest November sweeps ratings period, the number one station in the Houston market was the Spanish language station "Univision 45" KXLN. The numbers show Univision beating out all of Houston's English language stations, including the ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and CW affiliates, in nearly every category. Univision was number one for adults age 18-49 in primetime, daytime, early and late news. In fact, the recent broadcast of the Latin Grammy Awards on Univision even beat out ABC's broadcast of the Country Music Awards among Houston viewers.
Media critic Jeff McCall from DePauw University says these ratings numbers can serve as a lesson in the importance of serving a specific audience. "It's not surprising to me that the big three networks are starting to suffer, while a programming channel like Univision that is going after a specific demographic would thrive," he tells KTRH. And you can expect to see other networks try to follow Univision's lead. "All the major news and programming networks are trying to find ways to reach out to the Hispanic community, because it's such a large, growing part of the United States population," says McCall. "I think we're going to see more Latino influence in television, and also in news coverage and news reporting...that's just going to have to happen because the country is becoming more diverse with a Latino influence."
While mainstream networks are certainly trying to tap into the Hispanic demo, their success is still to be determined. "They've got a very steep climb," says McCall. "Univision so closely identifies with the Latino population that (Latinos) feel welcome there, and they won't necessarily feel welcome in the traditional mainstream media." The growing influence of Hispanics in media seems to mirror their growing influence in politics, with the recent push by some in Congress for an immigration reform bill and more Hispanic voter outreach. But McCall says the media trend has nothing to do with politics or policy. "It's purely a business decision by all these media corporations...they want to get as many advertisers as they can in front of those populations and collect the dough from doing that."