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A year after initial launch, CNN Latino plans to close up shop

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Launched in early 2013, CNN Latino was one of several projects in recent years from major U.S. media companies trying to expand their Latino audience. Some ventures have had less success than others.

When CNN Latino launched early last year, it was lauded by the network as a venture that would meet the demands of the U.S. Latino audience. But CNN has confirmed that its syndicated Spanish-language news and entertainment service will be closing within a month, citing unmet business expectations.

An offshoot of CNN en Español, CNN Latino has operated as an eight-hour block of programming for air on partner stations. It was one of several projects in recent years from big media companies that have been trying to expand their Latino audience.

Yet its failure doesn't come as a surprise to observers like Veronica Villafañe, who writes about Latinos and media on her Media Moves website.

"Part of the problem is that maybe the formula they had come up with initially simply didn't work," Villafañe said. "Basically, what they thought they could do was that they could partner with local stations and sell them programming they already were already airing on their international signal. But combined with local programming, obviously it just didn’t pay off in terms of local sales."

A CNN representative emailed this statement to KPCC:

CNN Latino was a bold effort to continue CNN’s commitment to the U.S. Hispanic marketplace.  Unfortunately, despite the great efforts of many talented people, CNN Latino was not able to fulfill our business expectations and we are discontinuing the programming this month.  Over the course of the past year we learned a lot and we will use what we learned to continue to innovate and evolve our presence in the Hispanic community.

Among its fellow Latino-targeted major media startups, CNN Latino was somewhat of an outlier. Other major U.S. networks such as Fox, ABC and NBC have focused their investments not so much in in Spanish-language content but in targeted English-language content for Latinos, recognizing that Latino population growth is now driven by the native-born.

But some of these projects have fared better than others. In November, NBC Universal announced that it would be shutting down its NBC Latino website, an English-language site that got its start in 2011 as a Tumblr blog.

Failures like these make some media observers, like Giovanni Rodriguez, a social engagement consultant in Silicon Valley, wonder if Latino-specific packaging – as opposed to simply more diverse media coverage - is really the best way to go.  

"This strategy of actually having a separate but equal entity may not be the best," Rodriguez said. "Maybe we need to think about, if this is the future of America, how does the future of America actually get represented in the stories that we tell?"

A better strategy could involve more coverage that's relevant to Latinos on mainstream networks and websites, Rodriguez said – and more diverse mainstream news staffing.

Meanwhile, the experiments continue. Last fall, Disney/ABC teamed with Univision to launch Fusion, an English-language network aimed at Latino millennials. And a series of other ventures - including the NBC-Telemundo's cable channel Mun2 and Glendale-based NUVOtv, which in 2012 landed Jennifer Lopez as a creative partner - are still chugging along.

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