Cinema and Media Studies Spanish-Language Television
by
Jillian Baez, Manuel Avilés-Santiago
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 August 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0209

Introduction

During the last decade, Spanish-language television has generated much interest among media scholars. The most recent census numbers demonstrated that Latina/os are the fastest growing minority in the United States, and the ongoing debates around immigration and the configuration of a Latino market heralded by advertisers for its “buying power” have prompted researchers to look at Spanish-language television as a site through which narratives about race, ethnicity, class, gender, and national and transnational identities intertwine. Although Spanish-language television has aired on the mainland United States since the 1960s, it was not until 2007 that the top broadcast television networks, Univision and Telemundo, joined the big leagues of television audience measurement research. The highly competitive rating numbers revealed by Nielsen indicate that Spanish-language networks are consistently in the top ten ratings during primetime. Currently a vastly growing industry, Spanish-language television is marked by its history of consolidation and conglomeration. For example, Univision was bought and sold to several companies, including Hallmark, and Telemundo is currently owned by the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). Additionally, due to partial foreign ownership from Mexican television companies, such as Televisa, much of the programming on Spanish-language networks in the United States is imported from Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, and other parts of Latin America. Although US Spanish-language television has historically focused their content and marketing to Spanish-dominant immigrants, Univision and Telemundo have recently ventured into targeting bilingual and English-dominant second- and third-generation Latinos. For example, consider Univision’s website La Flama and Telemundo’s mun2 cable network that focus on creating bilingual and bicultural/hybrid content. While Univision and Telemundo continue to be the top Spanish-language networks in the United States, other cable networks (i.e., Azteca, Galavisión, LATV, and Vme) continue to add new spaces and voices to the industry. This article reviews the most pertinent scholarship on Spanish-language television and highlights some of the prominent themes to consider in this area of research. Early work on Spanish-language television focused largely on providing historical overviews and profiles of Univision and Telemundo. Later work examines issues of representation, especially in terms of race, nation, gender, and class. More recent work also carefully documents the recent growth in Spanish-language television along with shifting strategies to accommodate the growing Latina/o viewership. This scholarship also includes analyses of regulation, particularly regarding ownership, as they relate to Spanish-language television industries. Most of the literature discussed in this article focuses on Spanish-language television in the United States, but there is some research included that addresses this medium in other countries, such as Mexico and Spain. Overall, the burgeoning research in this area emanates from a variety of disciplines (e.g., communications, film studies, sociology, and political science) and methodologies (e.g., content analysis, interviews, participant observation, etc.), but more work is needed to understand fully the political, economic, and cultural impact of Spanish-language media.

Anthologies

To date, there are no anthologies exclusively focused on Spanish-language television. The volumes discussed in this section, however, do contain some essays that detail the history and political economy of Spanish-language television in the United States In particular, Albarran 2009, an edited volume, provides several key essays on Spanish-language television in the United States and Latin America. Deepening some of the issues presented in Albarran’s volume, the anthology Dávila and Rivero 2014 offers recent industrial analyses of Spanish-language television in the United States. While both anthologies provide accessible introductions to Spanish-language television, the volume Albarran 2009 is better suited to undergraduates while Dávila and Rivero 2014 is appropriate for both advanced undergraduate and graduate students. One of the earliest essays on Spanish-language television can be found in the anthology Rodríguez 1997, a survey of Latina/o-oriented media in the United States.

  • Albarran, Alan, ed. The Handbook of Spanish-Language Media. New York: Routledge, 2009.

    E-mail Citation »

    This collection offers essays on Spanish-language media in Latin America and the United States. Most chapters are basic overviews of Spanish-language media in a specific country with some more thematic essays at the end of the anthology.

  • Dávila, Arlene, and Yeidy Rivero, eds. Contemporary Latina/o Media: Production, Circulation, Politics. New York: New York University Press, 2014.

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    This anthology presents some of the most cutting-edge scholars on Latina/o media in the United States. Best suited to advanced undergraduates and graduate students, the collection contains a few chapters that focus on Spanish-language television.

  • Rodríguez, Clara E. Latin Looks: Images of Latinas and Latinos in the U.S. Media. Boulder, CO: Praeger, 1997.

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    Although now dated, this book provides an introduction to Latina/o-oriented media, including Spanish-language television. The chapter titled “Hispanic Oriented Media” by Subervi-Velez and others is especially relevant.

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