With Multicultural Consumers in Focus, NYC Forum Sheds Light on Opportunities and Challenges for Media Industry in a Multiplatform Environment

March 19, 2013, New York, NY – Over 300 media executives gathered at the 13th Annual Multicultural Media for Multicultural America Forum, held at the Marriott Marquis on March 14.  Presentations, panel discussions and creative exhibitions framed high-level dialogue about how media is programmed for, marketed to, and consumed by America’s Asian, Black, and Hispanic consumers.  The conference focused on “Media’s New Generation,” young multiplatform multiculturals, who are rapidly becoming the new general market.

Adriana Waterston from research firm Horowitz Associates shared highlights from two surveys, State of Cable & Digital Media and Multiplatform Content & Services.  These findings were illustrated by video from their Viewing the Viewer ethnography.

The presentation focused on how multicultural consumers are adopting and using alternative/over-the-top platforms (OTT).  According to Waterston, access to OTT is almost universal, with 85% of heads of household having access.  This number rises to 96% among 18-34 year-olds.  46% of consumers view OTT content at least weekly, rising to about seven in ten 18-34 year olds.   White consumers under-index compared to their Black, Hispanic, and Asian counterparts when it comes to OTT viewing, Waterston noted.

Among multicultural audiences, one key driver for using OTT is to access culturally relevant content unavailable through traditional TV.  This is not limited to in-language or international content; young, multicultural audiences, not seeing themselves adequately reflected in mainstream media, seek content elsewhere that is reflective of their lives and experiences.  “I ask you to visualize the future– what mainstream media will look like when these creative influences are an organic part of what we see on TV– not chosen formulaically to ‘satisfy’ a multicultural mandate,” urged Waterston.   As Depelsha McGruder, Centric’s SVP of Business Operations, would later assert, “People that are multicultural are the mainstream. These are the people who are the general market of the future, and now.”

The theme of “Media’s New Generation” carried throughout the event with panels focused on each the key constituencies of the media industry:  programmers and distributors, technology, content, audiences, and advertisers.  Executives from major media companies including ABC, ESPN, Comcast, Verizon FiOS, BET, Interactive One, and HBO shared the stage with up-and-coming networks including Mnet and Myx TV, targeting the Asian American audience; Centric and ASPiRE, targeting the Black audience; and two rapidly growing Hispanic networks, Cine Sony and nuvoTV , who not only participated, but were major event sponsors.

One panel addressed the constantly evolving relationship between programmers and distributors, and alternative platforms were front and center of the conversation.  Ruben Mendiola, VP & GM of Multicultural Video Services at Comcast noted, “We want to make sure that we can give our audience the best possible services on any alternative platform, however they want it.  This is where the industry is today. The greatest challenge is being able to offer that same level of great assets to everyone, whether it’s multicultural or general market.”  Michelle Webb, Executive Director of Content Acquisition & Programming at Verizon FiOS stressed the importance of partnerships with networks, adding, “We have to go where the customers go.  Our partners work with us to make sure we are creating strategies to reach our audiences.”  Superna Kalle, SVP of Networks for Sony Movie Channel and GM of Cine Sony, agreed, explaining that partnerships with distributors play a key role in the network’s strategy.  “We are huge believers in the digital space.  The goal is to be as authentic as possible to reach out to audiences and to meet the needs of their distributors.”

Another panel focused on how networks are meeting the evolving demands of their audiences.  Lino Garcia, GM of ESPN Deportes, explained how new platforms have expanded their ability to serve Hispanic sports fans: “Before ESPN Deportes, the Hispanic sports fan was completely underserved. There were some assumptions that once you moved content from linear television to other platforms it would erode your audience, but it actually added to it.  We’ve been inspired to use all these mediums effectively.”  Later in the day, Ed Gordon and Julie Perlish of ESPN’s research team presented a case study on how ESPN is innovating to reach the U.S. Hispanic sports fan across platforms.  The panelists agreed that serving multicultural audiences with authentic, relevant content plays a major role in attracting and retaining viewers.  Lucinda Martinez, HBO’s VP of Domestic Network Distribution & Multicultural Marketing, noted that: “There is crossover, from Latino viewers watching ‘mainstream’ shows and English-speakers watching Latino shows.  We don’t make assumptions.”  Judi Lopez, SVP of Affiliate Distribution and Marketing at nuvoTV affirmed, “We constantly talk to our customers. What’s continuously reinforced is that our customers are not seeing themselves [reflected on TV].  They want to see themselves in a real authentic world, but not stereotyped.”

Also featured were three young, multicultural creative artists:  Award-winning actress Elaine del Valle, performing an excerpt from her wildly successful one-woman play Brownsville Bred; Vincent Lin, with an advanced screening of his new film Collywobbles; and Al Thompson, with footage on his hit web series, Lenox Avenue.  After showcasing their work, the artists discussed how their lives and experiences have shaped their creative visions, the challenges they face in getting exposure and distribution, and the ways in which they are overcoming obstacles to their rising success.  Del Valle’s challenge is “getting people to realize it’s not just a Latino story, it is a story,” while Thompson noted that he was inspired to produce and digitally distribute his own show because he felt a “void in his personal viewing of TV.”  The Internet provided him the platform he needed: “I love digital because I love control over the content, love connecting with the audience.”   Vincent Lin agreed, noting:  “YouTube is a stage where anybody can put work online, it’s so accessible. But the problem is to get it to the right people.” Joining the discussion was Alicin Reidy Williamson, an industry veteran and co-founder of Multi-Verse Media, an entertainment company that helps cultivate relationships between up-and-coming multicultural creatives and media clients.

The forum concluded with an advertising-focused panel moderated by multicultural marketing strategist Gilbert DávilaXavier Turpin, Director of Multicultural Marketing at Dunkin’ Brands Inc., affirmed that in order to succeed, companies need to realize: “It’s not multicultural marketing, it marketing in a multicultural nation…  Everyone today is a multicultural marketer.”   Yvette Peña, Director of Multicultural for Walgreens, explained that in her company the connections between multicultural and multiplatform are understood:  “There is an emerging youthful population. Multicultural, savvy, and they know they have options.  The consumer wants to be engaged, so how are we engaging with them? We’re looking at mobile and social apps.”  Steven Wolfe Pereira, EVP and Managing Director of MediaVest Multicultural, concluded, “This is the most exciting time to be in this business… Everyone has to innovate, [but] the place we’re lacking is on the digital side.  We’re interested in who’s coming into the space because we have money to spend.”

View Forum photos here

View the excerpts from Viewing the Viewer presented at the 13th Annual Multicultural Media for Multicultural America Forum

The annual Multicultural Media Forum is organized by Horowitz Associates Market and Multicultural Research. For more information about the 2014 event, contact Stephanie Wong: 914-834-5999 (stephaniew@horowitzassociates.com) or visit www.multiculturalmediaforum.com.