Singing Shows on the Slide? Not If You're Watching Spanish-Language TV

Singing competition shows are in trouble. Fox canceled The X Factor in February. In May, both The Voice and American Idol had dramatic ratings declines for their season finales. Idol's plunge was particularly drastic, falling from 30 million viewers per episode at the peak of its popularity to 10.1 million today - a showing that may have contributed to the recent exit of Fox's top entertainment executive, Kevin Reilly.

ABC is hoping to reverse the trend with a U.S. version of a popular Israeli show, Rising Star, lauching in June. But over on Spanish-language networks, the genre is blossoming. Univision and Telemundo have announced the launch of four new music competitions set to debut in the coming months, joining La Voz Kids (The Voice Kids), now in its second season on Telemundo, and La Academia Kids (The Academy Kids) on Azteca America.

Univision's La Banda (The Band) is set to air in 2015 and will be produced in partnership with Simon Cowell's Syco Entertainment; the show will search worldwide for the "ultimate" Latino boy band and award the winner a recording deal with Sony Music. This fall, the network also will launch Va Por Ti (All for You) for singers ages 18-34. Telemundo's Buscando Mi Ritmo (Searching for My Rhythm) pairs new bands with the network's onscreen singing talent. And on the network's Yo Soy el Artista (I Am the Artist), performers who can sing, dance and act will do battle.

Cynics might dismiss the Spanish-language surge as an indicator of a lagging market. But Univision Networks president of programming and content Alberto Ciurana says it's a simple matter of demographics. "Our English-language competitors who've had these shows for several years now have worn out their formulas and their viewers are getting older," he says. "Our viewer is much younger, and we've always been a platform to launch new artists and new careers."

The numbers bear him out. According to Nielsen's May sweeps data, the median age of the Univision Network viewer was 40. Telemundo's was 41 - placing both well within the 18-49 sweet spot advertisers crave. The median ages for CBS, ABC and NBC was 60, 56 and 55, respectively.

The younger demographic has been key to the success of La Voz Kids, which has become Telemundo's top-rated nonscripted show, averaging 2.2 million viewers per episode. "We were able to take such an established format and do a kids' version that resonated with Latin families," says Telemundo vp programming Glenda Pacanins.

Univision's Ciurana says his network's push is about more than making hit shows. "We like to create careers," he says, noting the tight ties with Televisa in Mexico, which has long had a talent development arm. "Our goal is to continue down that path of developing talent."


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