DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The nation's Hispanic population is exploding and that is creating another boom - in Hispanic media. In recent months, several major media players have announced plans to join the competition for the Hispanic television audience. There's a new Hispanic TV network coming, plus a host of new cable channels aimed at Latinos.
As NPR's Greg Allen reports from Miami, they're not all in Spanish.
GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: The numbers tell the story, according to the census, the U.S. Hispanic population jumped by more than 40 percent in the last decade. The nation's 50 million-plus Hispanics now make up 16 percent of the television viewing public. And those numbers are expected to grow.
Univision is already the nation's fourth largest network. It hits number one in some markets and time slots. Four years ago, the network's growing clout was recognized when it hosted both the Democratic and Republican candidates in primary debates. This year, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney sat down for extended interviews in a candidate forum, hosted by Univision anchor, Jorge Ramos.
JORGE RAMOS: We just released a poll, a Univision poll that says that if you were to run against President Barack Obama, he would beat you easily with the Hispanic vote. You wouldn't even get 25 percent. You would lose the general election.
MITT ROMNEY: Just wait. Just wait. We'll get that quote out there, where you say I'm Mexican-American. I'll do a lot better...
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
ALLEN: On Univision, that interview was broadcast with a simultaneous Spanish translation.
ROBERTO ORCI: Historically, Univision was Spanish first and Spanish only, and they were adamant about that.
ALLEN: Roberto Orci, the CEO of Accento Advertising in Los Angeles, says that's beginning to change. Univision recently began broadcasting its prime time Telenovelas with English subtitles, something competitor Telemundo has done for years. It recognizes changes in the Hispanic population shown in the census. Over the last decade, most of the growth in the Latino population came, not from immigration, but from births - kids born and now being raised in the U.S.
Market research shows only about a fifth of U.S. Hispanics now prefer Spanish-language programming on TV. The rest - some 80 percent of the Latino population - are bilingual or prefer English.
Helen DeJesus is a good example. She's bilingual, a second-generation Cuban-American who lives in a Miami suburb.
HELEN DEJESUS: I don't watch Spanish channel and, in a way, that's a bad thing 'cause I should, especially for my son.
ALLEN: DeJesus says watching Hispanic TV growing up helped her sharpen her Spanish language skills. But she's part of a growing Latino population that's moving to English language TV.
Roberto Orci says that trend is sending a clear message to Hispanic broadcasters.
ORCI: We have to appeal to them in culture but in the language of their preference. And a lot of the bilingual Hispanics watch English language television and Spanish language television. So you want to be able to reach them where they are.
ALLEN: Orci greets, as good news, recent reports that Univision is in talks with Disney, to develop an English language, all news channel, aimed at Hispanics. It's one of several new cable channels for Latinos planned by Univision and other media companies.
Cable operator Comcast recently announced plans for two new channels, including one that will be run by movie director Robert Rodriguez. It also will be in English. It joins competitors already out there, like NuvoTV, an English language channel aimed at a young, bicultural Latino audience.
The number two Spanish network, Telemundo, is part of NBC Universal. It's long made English part of its programming, both in the use of Spanglish and in subtitles for Telenovelas, like "Una Maid en Manhattan."
(SOUNDBITE OF TELENOVELA, "UNA MAID EN MANHATTAN")
ALLEN: Telemundo Chief Operating Officer, Jacqueline Hernandez, says reaching Hispanics is about more than language. It's also about their culture. Her network's Telenovelas she says recognize that.
JACQUELINE HERNANDEZ: They're created in the U.S. for the U.S. Hispanic audience. And they reflect the world that we live in. So it's a great draw and attraction for the bicultural audience.
ALLEN: Anticipating the move toward a younger, bilingual audience, several years ago, Telemundo launched a cable channel, Mundos. The channel's name is written M-U-N, with the number two after it, MUN2 in Spanish. It features several bilingual programs, including a reality show with Mexican pop singer, Jenni Rivera.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV THEME SONG, "I LOVE JENNI")
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Rapping) She's coming to a hood near you, taking shots of tequila with you. Yeah, she's a superstar but she goes so hard. Go Jenni...
ALLEN: Telemundo's Jacqueline Hernandez.
HERNANDEZ: We do a show about her life, and it takes place in Long Beach. And it's in English, because she and her family, that's how they roll. And they speak English at home. And so, the show will have English and a little Spanglish. But it's really authentic.
ALLEN: In one show last season, Rivera operates a taco truck.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SERIES, "I LOVE JENNI")
JENNI RIVERA: I am a hard-working Mexican-American woman who can make excellent records and excellent tacos.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken)
ALLEN: Now the two Hispanic networks, Telemundo and Univision, are getting a new competitor. Fox, which already operates three Hispanic cable channels, this fall, plans to launch MundoFox, a Spanish language TV network. The network, which is working now to sign up station affiliates, will draw programming from some of Fox's Spanish-language cable channels.
But CEO of Fox International Channels, Hernan Lopez says he expects the new network's strongest draw will be action dramas; shows that he thinks will have broader appeal than traditional Telenovelas.
HERNAN LOPEZ: We were presenting it as a Latino network with an American attitude. It is in Spanish, but with a level of quality that viewers are used to in American television.
ALLEN: Lopez says the network may be including closed caption English subtitles on some programs.
Advertising executive Roberto Orci says it wasn't that long ago that many in the industry thought the future of Hispanic television was limited. As immigrants settled in, it was supposed, they'd assimilate. And over a generation or two, Latinos would leave Hispanic programming for the mainstream media.
But rather than assimilating, Orci says U.S. Hispanics have acculturated.
ORCI: Which means we take the best of American culture that we came to adopt and love, and we keep the best of our culture that we value. And so, you have this hybrid American that is very proud and happy to be an American, but is very proud and happy to have his culture that makes him unique - or her unique.
ALLEN: The competition for a rapidly growing Hispanic bicultural market is happening, not just in television, but also in radio, social media, the Web and mobile platforms. For media companies looking to grow, Hispanics now look less like a niche market, and more like the future.
Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.