CNN Moves Beyond Cable With CNN Latino

Elizabeth Epinosa - P 2013
Courtesy CNN Latino

Elizabeth Epinosa - P 2013

KTLA’s Elizabeth Espinosa will host a nightly news magazine as part of eight hours a day of original shows aimed at Hispanic-Americans drawing on CNN’s worldwide resources.

Moving beyond its cable TV roots, CNN has tapped KTLA reporter Elizabeth Espinosa to host a nightly magazine show that will be part of a new eight hour bloc of Spanish language programming intended to be the basis for a national syndicated network to air on digital and broadcast stations.

“The goal is to create an unwired network of stations,” says Cynthia Hudson-Fernandez, senior vp and gm of CNN en Españoland Hispanic Strategy for CNN/U.S.

On Jan. 28, CNN Latino, as the new program bloc is being called, will premiere on KBEH-DT, which is digital channel 63 in Los Angeles, airing from 3 p.m. PST to 11 p.m. five days a week.

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Espinosa will host Sin Limites, a newsy magazine show that will also include lifestyle, entertainment and other elements – including newsmaker debates. While it will draw on CNN bureaus and resources worldwide, it will offer original programming -- mostly tied to the news of the day of interest to the Spanish language audience and to Hispanic Americans.

“It really is a pioneering move,” says Espinosa. “It’s not Telemundo. It’s not Univision. This is something CNN has been studying and evaluating the numbers.”

The target audience, says Espinosa, is not just those who speak Spanish, but “one that is bi-cultural and bilingual and shifts back and forth in both worlds. We’re speaking to that voice, which certainly is bursting.”

In the past year there have been a number of initiatives in the U.S. to tap into the Hispanic audience, which is growing more rapidly than any other segment of the American population.

While CNN, which is owned by Time Warner, already has CNN en Español, a 24-hour all news network on cable, Hudson-Fernandez says CNN Latino will be an attempt to reach a much broader audience that is becoming increasingly important in culture and politics, and more affluent, so of more interest to advertisers.

Hudson-Fernandez puts the cable network’s ultimate reach as about 4.7 million homes where Spanish is the first or second language. Across the U.S., she says there are more than 60 million such homes, and they are less likely than those who speak primarily English to subscribe to cable TV.

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“So there is room for growth,” says Hudson-Fernandez, “and unfortunately having only a cable channel limits you. In many markets, such as Los Angeles, cable penetration is not as high as it is in English speaking homes”

After Mexico, she adds, the U.S. is the largest Spanish speaking country in North and South America. Hudson-Fernandez puts the buying power of U.S. Hispanics at $1.5 trillion.

While there is lots of Spanish language programming available already, CNN believes there is still a void to be filled. “The difference between us and other alternatives is that this is not about bringing canned programming from somewhere else and slapping a logo on it,” says Hudson-Fernandez. “This is about developing really relevant, specific content that meets the needs of the audience we’re talking about."

Espinosa grew up in the U.S. as the daughter of a mother who immigrated from El Salvador and a father from Mexico. What interests her, she says, is the opportunity to “be someone who can operate in both languages, both worlds.”

She will also operate in both jobs. She is still a full time employee of KTLA, Channel 5 in Los Angeles, where she is currently a reporter for the daytime and evening news shows, doing a wide range of stories. In the past she has also been a weekend anchor and contributor to the KTLA Morning News.

She said the show will be mostly in Spanish but at times will mix in English. When there are segments with people who speak only English, they will make a simultaneous translation available on the SAP sub channel for Spanish speakers.

While one segment might feature the Mayor debating city issues, another may look at lifestyle trends. There will be a segment every Friday with CNN en Español entertainment correspondent Juan Carlos Arciniegas, who will also host his own daily half hour show at 6 p.m. PST called Showbiz Latino on the CNN Latino program bloc along with Mariela Encarnacion.

Other shows on CNN Latino will include Aristegui, with Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui doing interviews with newsmakers; Choque de Opiniones, with Juan Carolos Lopez discussing issues and holding debates from Washington, D.C.; CNN Vida, with Dr. Mrisa Azaret discussing healthy living; and Deportes USA, sports news hosted by Marcela Trucios.

Sin Limites, a one hour show five days a week, is going to be produced as a partnership between CNN and Hero Broadcasting, which operates Channel 63. All the other shows will be fully owned by CNN.

The ultimate goal is to syndicate the eight-hour bloc to appear on independent stations in major U.S. markets with a large Spanish-speaking population. They hope to roll out across the country within about three years.

“These people want to be part of the American dream but they don’t want to lose Spanish,” says Hudson-Fernandez.  “So there is a re-evaluation of what they call the retro-acculturation of Hispanics in the U.S.”

“They want their children to be bilingual, they recognize that value,” adds Hudson-Fernandez. “That is something relatively new. A few generations ago that wasn’t happening. We think it’s a very exciting time and that our brand is going to be able to deliver on that.”