One company’s quest for Latino video dominance

There are 49 million digital video viewers in Mexico today — and MiTú Network wants every single one watching its videos.

Digital video consumption is swelling in Latin America as well as the U.S. That has been a boon for multichannel network MiTú, which partners with video creators to serve the Latino population in the U.S. and abroad. Since its April 2012 launch, the company has signed up more than 1,300 Latino video creators who collectively attract roughly 700 million monthly video views across YouTube, according to MiTú CEO Roy Burstin.

The Hispanic media industry remains dominated by broadcasters and, to a lesser extent, by pay TV content, said Burstin. They do certain genres well — there is no shortage of telenovelas, sports, news and game shows — but leave gaps in other content areas. Burstin and his two cofounders, both former TV producers, saw a major opportunity in lifestyle content, which includes food, fashion, beauty, crafts and other DIY projects.

“Lifestyle seemed like an obvious choice [for MiTú to focus on], because it has a long shelf life and tends to be pretty brand friendly,” said Burstin. “We’re filling a void of content that is really not out there, at least not in this level of quality and production values. That allows us to attract brands and spin some of this content into traditional media.”

One popular creator in the MiTú network goes by Craftingeek*, whose YouTube channel has 1.7 million subscribers. Her Spanish-language videos show viewers how to do nifty crafts and cooking projects, like how to make a tiny meal. They attract nearly 9.4 million monthly views, 73 percent of which come from women, according to YouTube analytics platform OpenSlate. But MiTú works with some English-speaking creators, too, such as SUPEReeeGO (1.7 million subscribers) and JR Muñoz (362,000 subscribers).

“If you’re an second- or third-generation 18-year-old in the U.S., you have one foot clearly planted in the general market, but you’re also culturally Mexican or Brazilian or Venezuelan,” said Burstin. “You don’t find a lot of content that speaks to that experience.”

One of MiTu’s old media competitors, Univision, has recently moved into more direct competitive territory. In April 2014, the TV broadcaster launched a digital network called Flama, which also produces original Web video for a Latino audience.

MiTú has been talking with Maker Studios, a large, Disney-owned multichannel network, about partnering for the 2015 Newfronts, according to a source familiar with the company’s plans. MiTú has an existing relationship with Maker Studios: The two companies signed a deal in September to co-produce original and branded content for Hispanic audiences.

“MiTú is not big enough to partner with Maker on an equal footing, so some deal is happening behind the scenes,” the source told Digiday. “It would make sense for Maker to acquire MiTú. That would give [Maker] a whole Latino division and crossover opportunities with creators.”

As MiTú has grown its audience, more brands have signed up to work with the network. The company recently worked with The Story Lab to produce a campaign called “Holiday House,” where it brought together a few dozen of its creators and stuck them together in a swanky Beverly Hills house for a few days. That enabled the creators to collaborate and produce holiday-themed videos together — and to highlight the shiny Microsoft technology stocked inside the house. Other advertisers MiTú has worked with include T-Mobile, Pepsi, Bud Light, Ford, Nestle and Universal Pictures.

When it comes to multichannel network marketing, “there are no written rules, especially on the brand side. It’s a bit of a learning curve,” said Burstin. “If it’s a seven-minute commercial, that’s just not going to work. The currency on which audiences move on YouTube, and in general, is authenticity.”

The danger for MiTú is being bucketed solely into marketers’ Hispanic spend, without any consideration for a general budget spend, said the source with knowledge of the Maker relationship. A Maker acquisition would relieve MiTú of that challenge, because MiTú’s creators would join a broader, more general creator community. But either way, if the company keeps attracting larger and larger audiences, advertisers will keep coming.

“When you look at demographics, Latinos are really driving population growth in the U.S. and, therefore, have become a very strategic demo that brands are after,” said Burstin.

But advertising is not the company’s only revenue stream. Late last year, MiTú signed a programming deal with Discovery to bring two of its Web series, “Casa Linda” and “Gurús de Belleza” (“Beauty Gurus”), to Discovery’s Familia TV channel and digital properties. Both are centered around MiTú creators, who star in the long-format versions on Discovery. MiTú is currently negotiating at least one other television deal. It’s also looking into partnering with over-the-top providers to funnel its content into those services.

“You have to be where the audience is,” said Burstin. “You have to look at it from a dynamic perspective. YouTube is not the end game.”

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