How Univision became a lifeline for Chicago’s Latino population
Teri Arvesu is the VP of Content for Univision Chicago Local Media, one of many outlets in Univision’s ever-growing portfolio. But the company’s continued growth shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that its Latino audience continues to grow as well. And not only that, in many places throughout the United States there are precious few media outlets that tailor their coverage toward this audience.
Discussing the company’s core goals, Arvesu says that “Univision’s mission is to inform, empower and entertain,” but that it’s constantly trying to evolve in order to better serve its viewers, listeners and readers. Part of serving its viewership is the understanding that Univision’s fans aren’t easily categorized, nor do they want to be. From the emergence of the term Latinx to describe gender nonconforming people, to the important distinction between Latino and Hispanic, Univision understands how diverse these distinctions are and works to create content that doesn’t paint in broad strokes.
“A Latino can be English-only, Spanish-only, Spanish-mainly, English-mainly, or both, with English and Spanish equally,” says Arvesu. “When you picture who that person is, for example, there are very different realities,” and that’s just one of the subtleties that is often missed in the coverage and discussion of the Latino population. Arvesu says that Univision’s approach is based on avoiding stereotypes in order to better serve people who, by and large, have not had a seat at the table in the worlds of journalism and media.
“It’s very easy to generalize,” says Arvesu, “And yet, we are all so very different. At Univision, we understand these nuances.” It’s why Univision is undergoing constant expansion, both in terms of acquiring other properties—such as Gizmodo Media Group or The Onion—while also embracing multimedia pursuits. In the Chicago area alone, Univision has two television stations and four radio stations, each with their own digital presence and social media following. It’s a robust portfolio that many media companies strive for, and is coming quite naturally to Univision.
“When you look at Chicago, for example, our newscast at 5 p.m., right now in the 18-49 demographic, we’re number two behind ABC. But for the majority of the last year, when you average out all of 2016, we were number one,“ says Arvesu. But that share of the market hasn’t translated to an equal slice of the pie in terms of advertising revenue. “There is increased scrutiny because we broadcast to a segment of the population that is still undervalued by some advertisers despite the fact that we have strong research that demonstrates our audience is comprised of qualified consumers,” says Arvesu, noting that, “In a broad sense, what happens is, the decision-makers in some companies feel that once you acclimate to the United States and you understand English, you only prefer English-language content. And that’s not true. Our numbers show that.”
It’s why, despite Univision’s success, Arvesu notes that Latinos deserve a bigger share, not just of revenue, but in terms of the media landscape. In Chicago, two daily Spanish-language publications, La Raza and Hoy, shifted to weekly distribution models, and though Latinos make up nearly 30 percent of city’s population, they are not equally represented in this space. Often times, Univision is one of the few sources for timely reporting on issues that go beyond the United States, such as the recent political events in Venezuelan. And while new websites like Remezcla continue to emerge and serve younger communities, Arvesu says Univision will continue to become an even more vital source for that audience. “It does feel like an underserved community,” says Arvesu, “But we try to pick that up at Univision and become a lifeline for them.”