Latin music acts have received a bounty of screen time on U.S. TV in recent weeks, thanks to a head-on competition between a pair of Spanish-language singing competitions.
Univision’s Va por Ti (roughly, “I’m Betting on You”) and Telemundo’s Yo Soy el Artista (“I Am the Artist”) are entering their third week of vying for Sunday’s family-driven 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. slot. Both shows are new formats developed specifically for each network: On Va por Ti, celebrity coaches are eliminated along with their pupils, while Yo Soy el Artista seeks acts that can sing, dance and act. But both feature familiar staples: hungry contestants, voting fans, celebrity coaches and judges (rocker Alejandra Guzman and pop star Jencarlos Canela on Va por Ti; pop singer Luis Fonsi and tropical star Olga Tanon on Yo Soy el Artista), and superstar guest performances (Juan Luis Guerra and Austin Mahone on Yo Soy el Artista; Ricky Martin will appear on Va por Ti on Sept. 28).
The shows’ star power and high production values have contributed to strong launches, particularly in the face of stiff Sunday-night competition. Va por Ti, produced in Mexico by Televisa, premiered Sept. 7 and reached 5.8 million total viewers before dropping to 4.4 million on Sept. 14, the night Yo Soy debuted to 3.3 million, according to Nielsen. Telemundo’s numbers are lower than those of traditional leader Univision but still represent 65 percent more viewers than the network captured in the previous four weeks for the time slot.
“The standard of mainstream shows was so high that [U.S. Latin TV] wasn’t quite there,” says Ruben Galindo of Producciones Galindo in Mexico, which developed the Va por Ti format. “Now, the networks are making a big enough effort to compete.”
And family shows resonate with Latin audiences. “Telemundo wants to openly exploit feel-good TV,” says Jesus Torres Viera, the network’s executive vp content. “And we wanted to do it with music because it easily connects with our audience.”
Univision’s strength gives it the inside track in this ratings stare-down, but history has shown that all bets are off with shows like these. What the networks may have discovered above all is the value of creative competition.
This article first appeared in the Oct. 4 issue of Billboard.