In late October, Univision, the dominant Spanish-language media company in the United States, launched UVideos, a service that allows viewers to catch up on their favorite telenovelas, gossip fests, and news shows. Even if your Spanish-language skills stalled at 101, there are still muchísimas reasons to check out the site, which also works on smartphones and tablets.
* If you pay any attention whatsoever to TV ratings, you know that Univision is an audience beast. Even though it’s directed to a relatively small slice of the population, Univision regularly outperforms the English-language networks, especially with the 18-to-49-year-old viewers advertisers are most desperate to reach. Unless you’re fluent in Spanish—in which case you’re almost certainly already familiar with the Univision lineup—you’re probably wondering how they do it. UVideos can clue you in to the secrets of the network’s success, because the user interface and the videos’ closed captions are completely bilingual. Who knows, if you start watching a new telenovela with subtitles, perhaps you’ll be able to turn them off by the time the story ends 100 or 120 hours later. (You’ll certainly know what mentirosa, tramposa, and amor verdadero mean.)
* Even if you’re already a regular Univision viewer, the schedule is getting crowded. Rival Telemundo airs a competing slate of telenovelas, and starting on Jan. 7, Univision’s sister station TeleFutura will be rebranded as UniMás and will bring more testosterone-fueled programming, including Made in Cartagena, a “gritty, urban crime drama” from Colombia, and Cloroformo, which is set in an “inner city boxing gym.” Watching outside of primetime on UVideos will save many a family from wars between hermana y hermano.
* Among the lessons of the 2012 election were that the Hispanic vote is key and growing—and immigration isn’t the only issue they care about, not by a long shot. This wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who watches any of Univision’s news programs. Noticiero Univision—the evening newscast, which attracts a much younger audience than English-language broadcast news shows (the average age of viewers is 44, compared with 62 for the Anglos}—offers a great roundup of world news and U.S. politics. Immigration gets a lot of air time, sometimes as a proxy for politicians’ attitude to Latinos, but it’s just one ingredient in a balanced news diet. Unfortunately, UVideos provides only short clips from the nightly broadcast, and they appear without English subtitles. However, Sunday morning-show viewers should definitely add Al Punto, which does have English captions, to their rotation. The show, fronted by Jorge Ramos, is a Latino twist on the NBC/CBS/ABC standard, featuring interviews with politicians, 60 Minutes-style mini-reports, and journalist roundtables (albeit with fewer guests than the English-language nets). Invest an hour per week in 2013, and you’ll be an expert on Latino affairs by the time the 2016 presidential election race heats up.
* Speaking as a narcissistic TV tweeter, nothing upsets me more than thinking of a funny, insightful, or fashion-faux-pas-tic tweet at a time when no one else is watching a show. If a Tweet falls in a forest, does anyone appreciate it? UVideos syncs tweets and Facebook comments to the video feed so that they show up at the right of the screen whenever someone reaches the point in the show when they were made. (It’s easy to turn off the social stream if you find it distracting.) For the moment, there aren’t a lot of comments from users, and the tweets from Univision talent are a bit bland (it’s too bad Twitter power user Jorge Ramos is too busy to tweet during his own shows), but the software is impressive.
I’m sorry to report that Sabado Gigante isn’t yet on UVideos. For that three-hour celebration of all that is bananas, bonkers, and brilliant, you’ll have to tune in Univision every Saturday night. Believe me, it’s worth it.