Catering to Two Masters: Advertisers and Viewers

By Dom Serafini

Even though TV audience services are unified under IBOPE Mexico, sales and programming, strategies differ between Televisa and TV Azteca. IBOPE is the Brazilian-based TV audience research service.

Mexico’s upfront, when the networks negotiate the new season’s time inventory with media buyers and advertisers, starts in October.

While TV Azteca’s strategy is simply to sell airtime per rating points instead of a fixed rate, Televisa puts emphasis on advertiser commitments. Advertisers are expected to pay a deposit in order to obtain guaranteed time slots and stable rates. Televisa has a universe of about 300 main national clients and 1.000 local advertisers. Local sales have had a faster growth than national sales, especially for Canal 4.

“We don’t sell GRPs [gross rating points], but agencies convert GRPs into spots [e.g. reach x frequency = GRPs],” pointed out Alejandro Quintero, Televisa’s corporate vice president of sales and marketing. “Rates are based on two elements: ratings and supply and demand. Advertisers can expect to see rate increases in the order of 10 percent a year and for particular events pay a premium” , he said.

Quintero also commented that, OBOPE doesn’t measure the whole nation, but basically the urban markets, representing 60 percent of the universe. However, Televisa’s own research fills the remaining 40 percent. Similarly, according to TV Aztecas’s Guillermo Alegret, director general of TV Azteca’s channels, IBOPE data are used for general ratings, but they have in-house research services that focus on quality and quantity and they also run focus groups.

Nonetheless, as pointed out by Quintero: “For agencies and clients, the main purchase is television: a decision which is based on analysis. The remaining 25-30 percent is spent on other media basing their decision on instinct.” Quintero also explained that, “The programming grid is based on commercial criteria; similarly all production has to have a commercial acceptance. However, it is recognized that the networks have two clients: the advertisers and the viewers.” To capture viewers’ attention, TV Azteca’s Alegret programs five hours of novella per day, and, he said “every year we introduce five new novellas. [But], so far, out strategy is not to co-produce.”

While the goal of Canal 13 is to reach the whole family, mostly with national production, sports, variety shows, Canal 7 is targeted toward young people, with some foreign productions. There is not much in terms of children’s TV; the only space for kids is on Saturday mornings, but with a five-hour block. “Throughout the year we mix new and re-run programs, with more re-runs in the first two months of the year,” explained Alegret.

According to TV Azteca’s vice president international sales, Marcel Vinay Sr., 780 new hours of telenovelas are produced per year, as well as 260 hours of one-hour series under the banner: “Lo que callamos las mujeres,” or “What Women Keep to Themselves” .

At Televisa, Alberto Ciurana, vice president of programming, schedules 100 percent local production on Canal 2, the group’s flagship station, and it is generally targeted to families, with a conservative streak. Canal 5, their second most important network, is directed to children and families during the day and to the 18-34 age group during prime-time. On this channel, states Ciurana, “51 percent of programming is produced in house, the balance acquired, mainly from the U.S.” Canal 9 (Galavision) covers 74 percent of Mexico’s 21 million TVHH with mainly movies and sports, while Canal 4 is local in the Federal District (Mexico City with its 3 million TVHH) with some TV affiliates serving its environs.

Programming strategy is then fine-tuned on the air with highly skilled U.S.-style promotion, which, in Mexico, is seen as an integral party of the stations’ overall success. At Televisa, Manuel Gilardi, vice president, promotion and publicity, who is in charge of positioning all Televisa’s TV channels, said: “We see a telelnovela as a brand. We get one minute per each hour for promo, while 30 seconds per hour is devoted to station ID.” This inventory is considered “sacred,” and never made available to the sales division.