Nov 07, 2019

The free streamer tries to offer something for everyone with 22 wide-ranging Spanish and Portuguese-language channels.

When Pluto TV Latino rolled out 22 Spanish- and Portuguese-language channels in the U.S. this year, its goal was to offer such a wide range of programming that there would be something for everyone in the growing Hispanic market.

It’s a challenging mandate given the complexity and size of the population. Overall, they represent 18% of the American population and have roots in nearly 30 countries. A majority speak Spanish or are bilingual, and about a third were born outside of the U.S.

“The most important thing for anybody serving the U.S. Hispanic market to keep in mind is that there is no silver bullet,” says Adriana Waterston, senior vice president of insights and strategy at Horowitz Research, a firm that specializes in Hispanic and multicultural market research. “One size does not fit all.”

Spanish programming often doesn’t account for preferences that diverge across age groups and cultures within the market.

“Hispanics are a very complex demographic -- diverse by birthplace, country of origin, family’s length of time in this country, dialect, socioeconomic status, and regional culture within the U.S.,” says Christian Kurz, senior vice president of Global Consumer Insights at Viacom.

That's something Pierluigi Gazzolo, president of Viacom International Media Networks, Americas, has said for years. When the El Salvador-native was asked at an internal Viacom panel how Hollywood represents Latinos, he answered succinctly: Terribly.

“They’re mixing and matching cultures in one show,” says Gazzolo. “I’ve seen shows where the mother is Mexican and the son is clearly Colombian. A Mexican is very different from a Colombian. A Colombian is very different from a Mexican.”

Pluto TV Latino’s Potential

The opportunity for Pluto TV Latino is significant given the size of the Hispanic population, as well as gaps within the existing programming landscape. As the largest minority market, the group has a combined buying power of $1.5 trillion, according to research from the University of Georgia. The once-dominant Spanish-language broadcast network, Univision, has been steadily losing viewers for years and has been locked in a battle with Comcast-owned Telemundo for younger, bilingual viewers. Meanwhile, streaming services such as Hulu, Sling, and fuboTV offer Spanish-language content, but the additional cost of these services is leading to “subscription fatigue.”

"There are all sorts of creative programming ideas we can test with the audience that hasn't been done before."

Pluto TV hopes to offer an alternative that bests all of these options: it’s free and it’s available to everyone with an internet connection.

Another advantage is Pluto’s ability to analyze viewership data live and its ability to remove channels that aren’t performing well and put new ones in their place.

“There are all sorts of creative programming ideas we can test with the audience that hasn't been done before,” says Tom Ryan, co-founder and CEO of Pluto TV. “If they work, we can be nimble and double down on them.”

The Strategy of Spanish-Language Programming

Most of Pluto TV Latino’s shows are in Spanish (Pluto TV Brazil, another channel in the new lineup, is in Portuguese) or dubbed. It was a deliberate choice made to attract bilingual and native Spanish speakers.

“For those who are bilingual, having a Spanish-speaking offering complements the English-speaking offering we already have,” says Ryan. “It also provides the opportunity for viewing together with members of their family whose primary language is Spanish.”

"It’s bicultural and bilingual young people who are really driving the growth of this market."

Waterston warns against making sweeping generalizations, but says Latinos often live in multi-generational households, which naturally lends itself to generational co-viewing.

For example, a Latinx teen may watch telenovelas with grandparents and English-language content with friends.

“It’s bicultural and bilingual young people who are really driving the growth of this market,” Waterston says.

The Latino Lineup

Pluto TV Latino worked closely with Gazzolo’s research team to develop the lineup. In addition to Pluto TV Brazil, there are three movie channels, a true-crime investigations channel, two telenovela channels (one is a content-sharing partnership with Telemundo), MTV Latino, Comedy Central Latino, and two sports channels.

The sports lineup features Lucha Libre, Mexican wrestling with fighters that wear colorful masks and have moves similar to acrobatics, and the Hispanic mixed martial arts league, Combate World. It features MMA fights along with behind-the-scenes reality shows about the contenders. Lucha Libra has niche appeal, while Combate World attracts a broader audience.

“Combate World is geared at contact sports SuperFanaticos,” says Jacqueline Hernández, a longtime Hispanic media executive who is the former president of Combate Americas and was chief marketing officer at NBCUniversal Hispanic Enterprises. “The reason it is called Combate World and not Combate Americas or Combate en Espanol is that we wanted to reach the largest scale audience possible.”

These channels are a natural fit says Pluto’s Ryan, since they’ve had fight channels in the lineup since the early days. Additional channels will launch in the coming months including kids, travel, competition shows, travel, and food.


This story was originally published on July 23, 2019. It has been updated to reflect channels added in October 2019.