While network music competitions like “The Voice” and “American Idol” have been slowly incorporating Latin celebrities into their shows, no Spanish-language versions of those programs have yet been produced for U.S. Hispanic TV.
Instead, the Latin market has embraced pint-sized versions of those formats. In the last year alone there have been “La Voz Kids” (on Telemundo), “Idol Kids” (produced by indie channel Wapa TV in Puerto Rico), “El Factor X” (on new network Mundo Fox) and, most recently, “La Academia Kids,” which began airing Sept. 1 on Azteca America with Luis Coronel, Alicia Villarreal and Lola Cortes as judges.
All four are being produced domestically in Spanish for the first time. There are no general-market versions of these formats featuring children in the United States.
And the first three have become ratings successes. “La Voz Kids,” which began airing in May, led Telemundo to its best performance among total viewers in the network’s history during its Sunday time slot (8 p.m.-11 p.m.), averaging 2.2 million each night, according to Nielsen.
“Idol Kids” averaged a 24.2% share among homes in Puerto Rico for its first season, and “El Factor X” was Mundo Fox’s banner summer series.
The interest in kid versus adult formats comes in part from the way Latins watch TV.
“The family unit is around children, around the dinner table, and around the TV it’s far stronger in [Latin] culture,” Telemundo VP of content development, non-scripted programming Daniel Cubillos says. “Clearly the family element has played a role.”
For Mundo Fox executive VP/chief marketing officer Oswald Mendez, “El Factor X” “allowed us to have a summer property that was different from what the networks were offering at the time. [Latins] have a younger population, and the summer was a perfect time to engage the entire family and make it kind of a family appointment.”
Judges for “El Factor X,” which ends Sept. 6 (the winner gets a recording contract with Sony), are Mexican pop star Belinda, youthful tropical duo Chino & Nacho and Mexican actress/singer Angelica Maria, a trio that runs the gamut of genres and styles to appeal to different markets and generations.
What Mendez found during the show’s run was that West Coast contestants tended to be traditional in their repertoire while East Coasters covered far more contemporary material.
On his end, Cubillos says Telemundo took pains to balance the tastes of younger and older audiences in its selection of coaches (Paulina Rubio, Prince Royce and Roberto Tapia) and repertoire. As a result, “we had a bunch of people tune in who hadn’t seen us before,” he says.
For example, the winner of “La Voz Kids,” 12-year-old Paola Guanche, performed “I Will Always Love You” in a nod to a growing bilingual audience. Guanche will release an album through Universal Music Latino.
In Puerto Rico, Wapa TV began airing a local version of “American Idol” in 2011 and launched “Idol Kids” this year. Of the latter, winner Edgard Hernandez signed a record deal with Sony Music Latin.
Tuti Bou, VP of Puerto Rico for Sony Music Entertainment U.S. Latin, says the show fills a void in the market. “In the Latin music industry, we don’t have artists for kids,” she says. “The mainstream has Justin Bieber, One Direction and Disney. The field is wide open for us.”
In addition, Bou says, the lack of entertainment for children in Puerto Rico makes “Idol Kids” particularly appealing. “Our entertainment is going to the mall. So when a project like this comes up, parents are desperate to involve the entire family.”