While music-oriented shows have been dwindling on Spanish-language TV in recent years, Mexico TV giant Televisa just devoted a 200-hour block of programming-much of it in prime time-to live music. Under the banner Mexico Suena (Mexico Sounds) and produced entirely by Televisa, the series of concerts aired April 21 through May 20 on the company's four broadcast channels (2, 4, 5 and 9) and three cable networks.
The programming block marked an unprecedented display of musical muscle from Latin America's biggest producer of Spanish-language content, with the televised concerts ranging from arena performances by superstars Wisin & Yandel to mini-sets by up-and-coming bands.
Ironically, Mexico Suena - which offered 120 hours of programming in 2011 - ended its expanded block just as U.S. Spanish-language networks announced their new programming lineups. Unfortunately, in contrast to Televisa's musical commitment in April and May, the offerings for the rest of the year seem meager, posing a potentially serious problem for the Latin music business.
Spanish-language TV has nothing comparable to such U.S. shows as "American Idol" and "The Voice" that introduce new talent, though Telemundo recently announced production of "La Voz: Niños," a kiddie version of "The Voice." Also, with the exception of "Esta Noche Tu Night" on Mega TV, Spanish-language TV doesn't broadcast late-night talk shows like "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" or "Late Show With David Letterman," which provide important platforms for acts of all stripes.
(Off the record, TV executives often complain how, with the possible exception of various awards shows, music-driven programming in Spanish rarely delivers high ratings.)
"The windows to air concerts are few, and this [large programming block] is an example that other networks in the region should follow," says Jorge Juarez, co-founder of management/promotion firm Westwood Entertainment, whose roster includes Camila and Gloria Trevi. "One of the most relevant aspects of [Mexico Suena] is that all of the Televisa channels support it, so it truly becomes a month of music."
For Televisa, which has a long tradition of breaking new acts through its multiple platforms including Thalía, Paulina Rubio and RBD, the challenge is re-establishing itself as a musical brand.
"It was like mouth-to-mouth resuscitation," says Televisa Música director Arturo Velasco, who helped launch Mexico Suena with major concert promoter Ocesa. Among other advantages, the partnership allowed Mexico Suena to feature several Ocesa-promoted shows, including Paul McCartney's Mexico City concert.
"In many countries, [daily] music programming has declined," Velasco says. "So, instead of trying to find programming slots throughout the year or for a season, we decided to concentrate on music for 30 days."
Because Televisa is a multimedia company, it can devote a continuous flow of Mexico Suena information and cross-promotion on its multiple websites, radio stations and magazines. For advertisers, having such a recognizable and important block of programming is considered invaluable. After last year's sponsorship by Coca-Cola, this year's edition of Mexico Suena was supported by Corona Beer and the Acapulco Office of Tourism.
Indeed, the final week of the program (May 13-19) coincided with the revival of Festival Acapulco, an annual music fest produced by Velasco's father that was formerly a major tradition in the country, but which hadn't been held since 2005.