Latin Everywhere, the Spanish-language digital media company that was formed by the merger of Latin Anywhere and YouTube success GoTV last year, is launching a new streaming video service and acquisition that it hopes will help it drive more traffic to its own property.
Pongalo, as the service is called, describes itself as a “Hulu for Hispanics.” By that, the company is referring to its firm foundations in streaming versus downloaded digital video, and its extensive catalogue of premium programs — some 50,000 hours of films and soap operas, including prolific output of telenovelas by RCTV in Venezuela. A beta version of the service is live now with 10,000 hours of content, which will be available on the web as well as via iOS and Android apps.
Pongalo is underpinned by technology from a startup called Inmoo, which Latin Everywhere acquired earlier this year and is formally announcing today. Rich Hull, the exec chairman of the company, says the price is not being disclosed.
Pongalo — Spanish for “play it” — will gradually add more of its own catalogue to the service and says that there will also be added content coming from third-party partnerships. It claims to be the only worldwide streaming service focused only on Hispanic audiences. This is more than a niche opportunity: the company quotes figures from Nielsen that note that 60% of all U.S. Hispanic households own Internet-enabled smartphones, versus 43% of the general population. They also spend 25% more time watching video on the Internet.
The Hispanic demographic is also being tapped by others in the world of digital media. Among them, Fusion, a JV between Disney and Univision, is coming at this from a different angle: producing news and other content in English but with an emphasis on Hispanic issues and news. Muve, the music service recently sold by Cricket/AT&T to Deezer, also built up its subscriber base as well by targeting Spanish-speaking users in the U.S.
“We’ve recently seen announcements from HBO, CBS and Univision, among others, validating the explosive market for streaming content. Unlike virtually every other streaming platform, Latin Everywhere holds worldwide rights to its existing content, so Pongalo does not have to be limited by geographic restrictions if it chooses,” Carlos Penzini, an independent investor inLatin Everywhere who is also head of Latin American strategy for Viacom, said in a statement.
“U.S. Hispanics, in particular, consume more entertainment and adopt more mobile devices than any other ethnic group,” said Rich Hull and Jorge Granier of Latin Everywhere in a joint statement. “This is a population that currently has $1.4 trillion in buying power, and is expected to more than double in the next 25 years. Pongalo was created for these U.S. Hispanics, as well as for Spanish speakers in Latin America and around the world, to be the definitive one-stop service that exists to let these audiences easily find and stream their favorite telenovelas, films and other content.”
While Pongalo is launching initially as a free, ad-supported service, it will later this year add a premium option. It’s not detailing the prices for this yet, Hull tells me, but he thinks there has been a good precedent in the market for the two to sit alongside each other.
“The ad-supported service and the paid service actually work very well together,” he says. “We’ve seen this with other content streaming platforms and in other industries. Particularly for value-conscious consumers, using both approaches together keeps you from excluding any particular audience.” He also notes an “extraordinary” amount of advertising dollars flowing to Hispanic content.
The rise of Pongalo comes at an interesting time in the world of streamed video services. While YouTube’s viewing figures continue to rise — it’s by far the biggest destination online for video — improvements in broadband networks, cheaper data prices, and better devices have all led to a real explosion in online video consumption. As a result, a number of other players have muscled and want to muscle into the market, including Facebook and Twitter but also Yahoo and, as well as efforts from some of the big names that propel some of the biggest viewing figures on YouTube.
Just as Disney’s Maker Studio, one of big traffic drivers on YouTube, has been building up its own streaming services and others with non-YouTube partners, Latin Everywhere is also hoping to carve out a (screening) room of one’s own.
That’s not to say that it will be pulling away from YouTube, however.
“We absolutely will keep growing our YouTube network,” Hull says. “We’re not just a tourist on YouTube; we’re in it for the long haul. We get about 60 million views per month, and we’re continuing to scale that aggressively. YouTube has been a great partner, and we enjoy working with them. In particular, we get valuable data from YouTube; we use YouTube to home-grow content; we have a loyal following for our content and channel creators; and we think it’s the world’s greatest video marketing platform – so there’s a lot of value there for us. There’s no reason to bail out on that…. I think we’re seeing that the different platforms can actually be complementary, instead of competitive – and that’s what you’re seeing in the space.”
That YouTube data has come in handy in helping Latin Everywhere figure out how to build out Pongalo. While Hull says describes the Hispanic digital media ecosystem as “still in its infancy,” he notes that over half the views the company gets today on YouTube come from mobile apps — a sure signal that mobile had to be a priority in how Pongalo presented its services to consumers.