In late August, the Austin Spanish-language TV station KAKW Univision 62 announced that it had topped all other broadcast stations, regardless of language, in July sweeps.
That station, along with the Univision stations in Houston and Dallas, was No. 1 among adults ages 18 to 49 in July for total day viewing, prime time and late local news, the network said, citing Nielsen Company ratings.
And nationally, Univision said it made history by finishing the July sweeps period as the No. 1 network in prime time for adults 18 to 49 and adults 18 to 34, the first time it had done so in any sweeps period.
“Número 1 is the NEW #1,” Univision wrote on Twitter in July.
As Texas’ 2014 campaign season heats up, candidates looking to reach Spanish-speaking voters are taking note, seeking out stations such as Univision even when they don't personally speak much Spanish.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican gubernatorial hopeful, appeared in late August on Conexión Texas, a public affairs show that debuted earlier this year on Univision stations around the state. Abbott, who knows some Spanish words but is not fluent, spoke in English as Spanish subtitles appeared on the screen. He talked about being married for 32 years to a Latina, and said he sees a connection between his values and Hispanic values.
Univision is a “huge platform for us,” said Avdiel Huerta, Abbott's campaign press secretary, adding that the campaign also regularly reaches out to the Spanish-language network Telemundo, as well as Spanish-language newspapers.
Abbott “has developed a relationship with the Hispanic community and he will continue doing so,” Huerta said. “Values resonate across language, and he’s incredibly good at crossing the language barrier.”
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a Republican battling multiple challengers as he seeks re-election, also appeared in August on Conexión Texas, and his campaign created a video promoting the interview. Dewhurst, who once worked in Bolivia for the CIA, spoke in Spanish, saying that Latinos should vote for him because he will work to continue Texas’ economic growth.
“He appreciates reaching any audience interested in learning more about how he has helped build the Texas Miracle,” Dewhurst spokesman Travis Considine said.
Both Republicans and Democrats will be battling fiercely for Hispanic voters, who supported Democrat Bill White in 2010 in the last gubernatorial election. Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who is not seeking re-election, got 38 percent of the Hispanic vote that year, according to CNN exit polls.
One reason that Univision has been dominating competitors in Texas is because there are more English-language stations, so the English audience is more fragmented.
Univision attributes its success in the state in part to telenovelas such as Amores Verdaderos (“True Love”) and Porque el Amor Manda (“Because Love Commands”). Soccer helps too, with CONCACAF Gold Cup matches such as United States vs. Cuba and United States vs. El Salvador drawing viewers to the network.
“While most of the other networks are airing re-runs during the summer, KAKW continues to offer fresh content to its viewers with news, novelas, sports and specials,” Luis Patiño, senior vice president of Univision Television Group, said of the Austin station.
The Austin station’s programs include A Su Lado, (“By Your Side”), which features representatives from organizations such as the American Diabetes Association answering viewer phone calls about the disease. Other groups have answered questions about cancer, foreclosures, taxes and voter registration.
News programs were also part of Univision’s July success in Texas.
However, a growing share of Hispanic adults are getting their news in English, according to survey results from the Pew Research Center published in July.
Eighty-two percent of Hispanic adults said they got at least some of their news in English in 2012, up from 78 percent in 2006, according to the Pew report. Sixty-eight percent said they got at least some of their news in Spanish in 2012, down from 78 percent in 2006.
Even as the share of Hispanic adults who consume news in Spanish has declined, the number of potential Spanish-language news consumers is growing because of the rapid rise in the number of Hispanics in the U.S. — from 35 million in 2000 to 52 million in 2011, the Pew report said. (About 17 percent of Americans — and 38 percent of Texans — are Hispanic, according to 2012 census data).
And even Hispanics who prefer to get their news in English often turn to Spanish-language media for information about the countries where their families are from, said Federico Subervi, who until this fall directed the Center for the Study of Latino Media and Markets at Texas State University.
“So much of the TV in English is not culturally relevant for Latinos or other groups that want to be connected to their heritage,” said Subervi, now a journalism professor at Kent State University in Ohio.
Univision isn’t ignoring the English-language market. In fact, it’s partnering with ABC News to create an English-language news and lifestyle network targeting young Hispanics. The network, Fusion, is expected to launch in late October.