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Upfronts: NBC courts Latino viewers, Spanish-language TV courts millennials

2015 NBC Upfront Presentation red carpet arrivals. Pictured: (l-r) American Ferrera, Ben Feldman from
2015 NBC Upfront Presentation red carpet arrivals. Pictured: (l-r) American Ferrera, Ben Feldman from "Superstore."
Peter Kramer/NBC
2015 NBC Upfront Presentation red carpet arrivals. Pictured: (l-r) American Ferrera, Ben Feldman from
2015 Hispanic Group Upfront at Jazz at Lincoln Center on Tuesday, May 12, 2015. Pictured: (l-r) Angelica Vale, Raul Gonzalez, "La Sopresa de Tu Vida."
Mike Coppola/NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment
2015 NBC Upfront Presentation red carpet arrivals. Pictured: (l-r) American Ferrera, Ben Feldman from
Eva Longoria with "Mysteries of Laura" star Debra Messing.

The networks are going hard after the Latino audience, and Los Angeles Times reporter Yvonne Villarreal joined the Frame to break down the efforts from both English and Spanish-language media at the network upfront presentations.

Hot & Bothered

NBC is the network going the hardest with Latino programming. This show from the network stars Eva Longoria.

"It's basically a self-referential series. She plays a telenovela star, and it's about her life and what's going on in her love life, too," says Villarreal.

Shades of Blue

This NBC show stars Jennifer Lopez as a member of law enforcement, balancing her work with family life along with corruption. The actual "Out of Sight" TV spinoff didn't work, so maybe putting J. Lo back in the field from her acting peak will catch on. It also looks to provide her with a post-"American Idol" escape hatch (along with her recently announced Las Vegas residency).


America Ferrera, whose "Ugly Betty" seems to have been a bit ahead of its time with the success of shows like "Jane the Virgin," comes back to primetime in a comedy — also from NBC.

"I don't know how much of [the new Latino programming] is just the success of 'Jane the Virgin,' because 'Jane The Virgin,' while critics love it, isn't a huge ratings hit for the CW," says Villarreal.

"But with shows like 'Empire' and 'Scandal' showing the power of shows with diversity, I think networks just started waking up to [the idea that] this is the way we can tap into this audience."

Jane the Virgin trailer

Not all the new aims at Latino audiences have been a hit — ABC just canceled "Cristela," the sitcom starring Latina comic Cristela Alonzo.

"I think one of the gripes Cristela has been vocal about is not having enough marketing for the show — ABC wasn't doing enough to promote it, so maybe there's a lesson there," Villarreal says.

Cristela trailer

Alonzo wrote about the experience of the show and its cancelation in a long blog post earlier this week.


The Spanish-language network faces the loss of a flagship show "Sabado Gigante," which is going away after being on the air in one form or another since 1962.

"They haven't really discussed what they're going to do Saturday night, but they have a show from Simon Cowell called 'La Banda,' which is their version of their singing competition, and it has Ricky Martin as one of its judges," Villarreal says.

La Banda video

The network also has several partnerships, including Robert Rodriguez's El Rey channel and Fusion, a joint venture with Disney. Univision is using both of those channels to super-serve bilingual millennials," Villarreal says.

The network also had a high-profile guest to kick of its upfronts presentation: Bill Clinton.

"Bill was there to tout the growing power of the Latino consumer," Villarreal says. "He noted that when he was president about two decades ago, it was more common for young Latinos to drop out of school or help support families, and he emphasized that now they're more likely to stay in school and their level of education and prosperity has increased. And so he was telling advertisers, 'If I were you, I would study the changing demographic very carefully.'"


The network is launching "La Sorpresa de Tu Vida" ("The Surprise of Your Life"), a weekly two-hour Saturday night show with younger hosts.

"Their approach with it is making dreams come true and surprising contestants," Villarreal says.

The family-oriented show is set to bring in celebrities and special guests to help fulfilling dreams.

The programming that Villarreal is the most excited about: two musical biopics, capitalizing on the success of "Empire," on two of the biggest stars in the history of Spanish-language music: Celia Cruz and Juan Gabriel.

"It's interesting because these are superstars that maybe our grandparents know better," Villarreal says.

She wonders how pairing the older names with a younger format will do with younger viewers. We'll all find out next season.

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