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Inside Univision: A Look at the Rise of Spanish-Language Newscasts

In his eight years as general manager of WXTV in New York, Ramon Pineda has seen major growth within the Univision station’s core demographic. As the U.S. Hispanic population continues to expand, the station has experienced a major spike in ratings; during the most recent sweeps period, WXTV posted some of its strongest numbers ever, particularly among younger viewers.

“We live in a marketplace that has changed,” Pineda said in a recent interview with TVSpy. “So what works to our advantage at Univision is that the marketplace is changing to our favor on a daily basis. In the last 12 years, the population in New York has changed dramatically and has become more Hispanic.”

According to Nielsen, the New York DMA has seen a 31 percent increase in the Hispanic population among the A18-49 demographic since 2000. In the most recent sweeps period, WXTV delivered the most A18-49 viewers at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. in any language.

Pineda said he focuses on the ratings from a business standpoint rather than a content standpoint.

“When it comes to the advertiser, I think I have to demonstrate that I am a viable entity in terms of delivery,” he said. “But if I focus on that, I think I lose my edge. At the end of the day I believe that if you build it, they will come. And that’s what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to build it.”

Building an audience at WXTV is a multi-tiered strategy steered by Pineda and news director Norma Morato, a Cuban-American who has worked at CBS, ABC and CNBC. The pillar of the station’s content platform, Pineda says, is to remain loyal to the Spanish-speaking audience, finding relevant angles for the day’s local and national stories.

Pineda recalls the coverage of a 2006 incident with the USS Intrepid to illustrate his point. In the process of moving to a dry dock in New Jersey for renovations, the aircraft carrier became stuck in the muddy bank of the Hudson River, an story that led evening newscasts across the region — except for WXTV’s.

“That day, unfortunately, there was a hate crime in Long Island against three Mexican workers, and they just got mauled,” Pineda said. “We opened with that story, and then we covered the Intrepid at the end of the second block. If you’re a Hispanic viewer, it’s not that you don’t care that the Intrepid got stuck in the mud. But if you tune into Univision, you know what all these people care about.”

Another important factor of the station’s success is the evening anchor team of Adriana Vargas and Rafael Pineda (pictured). Vargas, who joined WXTV in 2011, is a relative newcomer, but Pineda has worked at the station for 42 years. Beginning later this summer, the pair will anchor from a sleek new set constructed at WXTV’s headquarters in Teaneck, New Jersey.

Pineda said he wants to stay focused on social media and community outreach as the news landscape continues to shift.

“You always have to refresh yourself,” he said. “The only constant in this market is change. I don’t think that local news will ever lose its value or its importance. At the end of the day people want to know what’s happening in their community.”

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