Is Hollywood Finally Coming Around?

Entertainment spending tops $6.5 billion, with English-speakers leading the way.  Now the free trade factor enters the picture.

By Rick Mendosa

July 1994

Spanish no longer wins hands down as the language of preference for U.S. Hispanics, and those speaking primarily English take the lead in entertainment spending.

The findings come from a national survey focusing on language preference and consumer expenditures among Hispanics.  Conducted by Hispanic InfoSource in Playa Del Rey, California, and headed by demographer Leo Estrada, the survey polled a representative sample of 6,445 adult Hispanics.  Results show 54 percent of respondents, when given a choice of one of the other, prefer to speak in Spanish; 46 percent prefer English. 

Whether English or Spanish-speaking, the estimated 36 million U.S. Hispanics – 10 percent of the total population – spend huge amounts on “entertainment.”  Yet entertainment can be a broad term meaning different things to different people.  To the U.S. government, entertainment means fees and admissions, audio and video equipment, entertainment supplies like CDs and cassettes, and other services.  Pets, toys, and playground equipment also are classified as entertainment.

An annual government report, the “Consumer Expenditure survey,” tracks the amount U.S. consumers spend on entertainment, breaking the data down by ethnic groups.  Using this “Consumer Expenditure Survey” and 1994 U.S. population projections, HISPANIC BUSINESS estimates that U.S. consumers annually spend about $154 billion to amuse themselves. Of this amount, $6.5 billion is pulled form the pockets of U.S. Hispanics, a conservative estimate given that other sources report far higher entertainment expenses.  Media expert Ken Auletta, in a story written for The New Yorker magazine, says “entertainment – video stores, movie theaters, theme parks, music, books, video games, theater, gambling – is a $340 billion business, and is growing twice as fast as overall consumer spending.”

Latin music holds just as much appeal among the English speaking crowd, INDIVISION Productions, located in Los Angeles, currently is in discussion with Fox Television and New World Communications Group to develop an English-language musical special to air during Hispanic Heritage month in the fall.  “The one-hour special will bring togher different formats of Latino music,” says Cheryl Quintana Leader, who founded INDIVISION in 1993.

INDIVISION may have the chance to bring more Hispanic-theme programs to English-language TV now that Fox and New World are listening.  Fox made news last year when it debuted the Hispanic comedy show “Culture Clash,” now seen in five major cities in the U.S.  The maverick Fox network recently made headlines again when it persuaded seven New World-owned television stations to drop CBS network programming in favor of Fox.  Both Fox and New World plan to develop more syndicated shows to fill extra slots in daytime programming, a lucrative advertising market.

It remains to be seen whether Fox, HBO, and the rest of the entertainment industry maintain their commitment to the Hispanic market.  In the meantime, the Hispanic market – both English and Spanish-speaking – continues to grow.  Entertainment marketers willing to target both groups stand to cash in on the millions waiting to be spent.

(PHOTO CAPTION: Cheryl Quintana Lead of INDIVISION may have th chance to bring more Hispanic-theme programs to English-language TV now that Fox and New World are listening.)