American television is acquiring a foreign accent.
As multichannel cable and satellite distribution systems flourish, more and more Americans can tune in the latest news, entertainment and advertising, from Europe, Asia and Latin America.
About 30 percent of the 80 million U.S. households with television sets have access to cable programming, and probably three-quarters of those can get such international fare.
The SIN National Spanish Television Network is the largest and most prosperous of America's international TV services. Primarily owned by Televisa, Mexico's largest private broadcaster, SIN offers round-the-clock Spanish-language programming to the nation's Hispanic community--America's fastest-growing ethnic group, according to the Census Bureau. SIN is broadcast locally over Channel 56.
SIN acquires programming from all over the Spanish-speaking world with between 15 to 30 hours a week of live programming from Mexico. Typical fare ranges from the soap opera-like Novellas to exclusive coverage of the World Cup soccer final from Spain. Last June, SIN initiated a weeknightly network news program focusing on Hispanic issues.
Through its over-the-air and cable affiliates, SIN can reach roughly three-quarters of the nation's estimated 20 million Hispanics.
"We have finally arrived as a medium," contends William Stiles, SIN's executive vice president. "We're the beneficiaries of all this talk about 'narrowcasting.' "
By narrowcasting, Stiles means TV programming that appeals to a particular target audience. The Hispanic community, he says, is an ideal narrowcast audience for certain advertisers. Procter and Gamble, Johnson & Johnson and Kraft are just a few of the American companies with ads tailored to the Hispanic community through SIN. Several Mexican and Latin American firms advertise too. Stiles expects SIN's ad revenues for 1982 to exceed $35 million.
The Oklahoma-based Satellite Program Network has more of a multinational approach to international television. Unlike SIN, SPN is purely a program distributor via its satellite networks.
SPN can reach approximately 6 million homes with its 30 hours of international programming a week, including Windows of the Orient, TeleFrance, Hello Jerusalem and Mediterranean Echoes. The programs, mainly entertainment, are either narrated in English or broadcast with English subtitles.
"We've started to approach other countries," Mike Stangeby, an SPN assistant vice president, says. Reportedly, Japan's Dentsu, the world's largest advertising agency, and Deutsche Welle, the German equivalent of Voice of America, are negotiating program arrangements with SPN.
TeleFrance is the largest supplier of programming to SPN with 21 hours a week, and its audience, says executive vice president Arnie Rosenthal "is a francophile one."
Though TeleFrance has been losing an estimated $2 million yearly, Rosenthal expects it to be in the black in 1984. The service has attracted advertisers such as Peugeot, Air France and Exxon.
Though it may be premature to say Marshall McLuhan's "global village" has arrived, there's little question that major corporations are preparing for international television advertising. "You'll probably see simple, nonverbal commercials that go heavy on the logo," says Gene Secunda of Barnum-Secunda Associates, a New York consulting firm. "Specific mutinationals are already planning for it."