ABC announced Thursday it will make all of its primetime entertainment programs, including hits “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives,” available in Spanish starting this season, and it is hoping to gain something big in the translation.
The move is an acknowledgment of the expanding U.S. Hispanic population and its potential as a source of viewers. Previously, “George Lopez” was the only ABC series that aired in both English- and Spanish-language versions.
“We wanted to move beyond toe-dipping and really dive in,” ABC entertainment chief Stephen McPherson said in a statement. “Almost half of the 41 million Hispanics in this country watch only or mostly Spanish-language television, and we want to bring that audience to ABC.”
ABC, using both dubbing and closed captioning, will be the first of the major English-language broadcasters to provide its full primetime entertainment lineup in Spanish. Most other networks offer few shows in the language.
The cost is “not inexpensive,” McPherson said in an interview Thursday, declining to provide a specific figure. But he said the return could be significant in terms of viewership.
“If you look at the performance of Spanish-language stations in a lot of the big (TV) markets, they’re doing very well. In some markets they’re beating the broadcast networks,” he said.
Responding to the expanding demographicHispanics are the fastest-growing minority in the United States and represent one-seventh of the population, according to a recent Census Bureau report.
“Desperate Housewives,” “Lost,” “George Lopez” and the new comedy “Freddie,” starring Freddie Prinze Jr., will be dubbed into Spanish, as will the network’s theatrical movie premieres and some specials. Casting has already begun for actors to voice the Spanish dialogue.
The rest of ABC’s primetime entertainment schedule, which debuts next week as the 2005-06 season officially begins, will be available with closed-captioned subtitles in Spanish, the network said.
In test screenings, the network found viewers receptive to ABC’s programs in Spanish. “A lot of people had not seen the shows because they were not English speaking but were TV watchers, and were enthralled with them and wanted more,” McPherson said.
McPherson said he wasn’t concerned about an immediate affect on Nielsen ratings.
“It’s more to get it out there and get a large audience watching it and I think the overall ratings will follow,” he said.
The subtitled versions will be on Closed Caption 3 channel (CC3), and the dubbed versions will be accessible through the SAP — secondary audio program — TV option.
ABC previously had aired major films in Spanish through SAP. This year, the network premieres scheduled to air with dubbing include “Catch Me if You Can,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Finding Nemo.” The made-for-TV movie “Have No Fear: the Life of John Paul II” also will be dubbed into Spanish.