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How Univision's morning show is out-growing 'Today,' GMA and 'CBS This Morning'

Date August 08, 2013

By Toby Maglio

LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) - It's a testament to the torrid growth of "Despierta America" that recent guests on the Spanish-language network's early talk show have been A-list: Matt Damon, Channing Tatum, Adam Sandler and Halle Berry.

"Despierta America" ("Wake Up America") is blowing up even as morning programming on the English-language networks has been flattening out or decreasing.

Univision considers those shows its competition, and its demographic is among the youngest on the air.

Season-to-date viewership of "Despierta America" has increased by 26 percent in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic, averaging 441,000 viewers, according to Nielsen.

Meanwhile, ABC's "Good Morning America" is flat year-over-year with an average of 1.4 million viewers; "CBS This Morning" is basically flat as well (up 1 percent) with 729,000 viewers; and NBC's "Today Show" is down 16 percent to 1.2 million viewers.

So is Univison doing something better than the other networks, or are they simply targeting the fastest growing demographic in America?

Univision Network's President Cesar Conde told TheWrap that he believes it's a combination of both.

He knows that his networks are positioned well due to their fortuitous target market. After all, Hispanic families tend to be larger, skew much younger and spend the highest percentage of disposable income on entertainment compared to other ethnolinguistic groups, he said.

On average, the "Despierta America" viewer was nearly 15 years younger (43 on average) in Q1 and Q2 2013 than its English-language morning show competition. The average age of a "Good Morning America" viewer was 58 years old, "CBS' This Morning" 58.5 and NBC's "Today Show" 57, according to Nielsen data.

But Conde also believes that "Despierta America" is simply providing stronger content.

"We have an audience that wants to start off their day on a positive note ... well-informed and empowered," Conde said.

He continued, "We really try to inject an element of fun and humor into our morning show ... in a way that I think other networks aren't doing."

Recent mainstream Hollywood celebrities dropping by the "Despierta America" Miami studio have helped the show grow as well.

Damon stopped in late July to promote "Elysium" and play a lively game of charades. Besides Tatum, Berry and Sandler, guests have included Salma Hayek, David Spade and Kevin James.

The non-Spanish speakers often wear earpieces for simultaneous translation, though much of Univision's audience is bilingual, so no re-translation necessary.

Conde said the network cares about non-Spanish speakers as well: Univision is launching two new networks that are exclusively in English this year. That will bring its network total to 14 - 12 of which are on cable.

One of the new stations is Fusion, a joint venture between Univision and ABC News that is completely in English and will target millennials.

The second, El Rey ("The King"), is a partnership with Hollywood director Robert Rodriguez ("Sin City") and will target males of the same millennial generation.

It is this kind of aggressive business decision that Conde attributes to Univision's breakout year.

"We've been trying new things and taking calculated risks," Conde told TheWrap. "I can guarantee you that if we were doing the exact same things we did five years ago we would not be in this position."

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