An up-and-coming Spanish-language streamer takes a big step toward original content.
Canela Media will present the daily entertainment news show “¡Ponle Canela!” on October 10th on its Canela.TV streaming platform. “Secretos De Villanas,” a reality series that brings some well-known telenovela actresses under one roof to reveal secrets about their lives and careers, will premiere on October 20.
With the launch of its own original content, Canela.TV is following in the footsteps of much larger and more mature streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, which have historically attracted audiences with licensed content in hopes they’ll stick around to bring original series and – to watch movies.
The move brings Canela Media even further into a crowded streaming ecosystem. But founder Isabel Rafferty said the company is finding its niche in an opportunity to better serve the Hispanic community in the United States
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“When I launched Canela, there was a lot of talk about streaming wars, but all of the services were focused on just one segment, the general market,” Rafferty said. “Some services might have a Latino section, but it was an afterthought, you had to scroll, scroll, scroll and would be outdated.”
Canela.TV and its ad-supported streaming channels launched in 2020 – shortly after the coronavirus pandemic took hold and viewers began to stay at home more. The streaming service aims to provide a wide range of free content for Spanish speaking communities. It currently hosts licensed content from various Spanish-speaking countries and outlets, including classic films, Hallmark films, and newer competition TV series.
Rafferty said part of her inspiration for launching the site was the relative lack of options for Spanish-speaking viewers who don’t have a pay-TV subscription or access to well-known networks like Telemundo and Univision.
These networks and other Spanish-language content have reached some of the fastest-growing traditional television viewership when it comes to average daily household viewership, according to data provider Samba TV.
“Demand for Spanish-language content and original programming has increased significantly,” said Dallas Lawrence, Samba TV’s senior vice president.
Initially, Rafferty was looking for shows and films from places like Colombia and Argentina, since a lot of Hispanic content in the US is set in Mexico. She wants to present different representations of the Latino community, she said. The service has since added 20,000 hours of content.
Canela said its streaming platform, which is available in the US, Mexico and Colombia, has 23 million unique users. Similar free ad-supported streaming services such as Paramount Global’s Pluto and Fox’s Tubi said they had nearly 70 million and 51 million active users, respectively.
As audiences grew, Rafferty said, the move to add original shows became key. Canela secured $32 million in a Series A funding round earlier this year and was able to start producing its own content. By the end of 2022, it will have 537 hours of original content.
“Streaming services and just media in general can be extremely capital intensive businesses, and so is Isabel [Rafferty] Going about it — starting with licensed content on a revenue-share basis, to building a really massive library of different types of content — was incredibly smart,” said Susan Lyne of BBG Ventures, an early investor in Canela.
A still of Entre Fronteras, an original by Canela.TV.
Rafferty said she thinks it’s important to have an ad-supported platform that offers content for free: Research showed that much of the Hispanic community has never had pay-TV subscriptions, and Canela wanted to make the content easily accessible for everyone, she said .
Commercials on the platform sell out monthly, she added, and high-profile consumer companies often buy spots. She plans to keep the ad-supported business model for as long as possible, if not forever, she said, even as the service faces growing competition.
Earlier this year, Spanish-language news outlet Telemundo launched its own streaming brand, Tplus, as a hub on NBCUniversal’s Peacock platform. Tplus offers original content accessible to Peacock subscribers at the $9.99 ad-supported or ad-free tier. TelevisaUnivision similarly launched a free ad-supported streaming platform called Vix and began offering Vix+, a premium subscription service, in July.
Major streaming services, including Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max, also offer libraries of Spanish-language content.
Following the first debut of Canela’s original program, the company plans to add “Bocetos,” a young adult series set in modern-day Mexico, and “Mi Vida,” a series centered on Latino celebrities and their paths to fame . These shows are expected later in October and November.
By December, the company will launch a standalone streaming service, Canela Kids, for its younger viewers, which will also feature exclusive and original content. Canela.TV has already started adding some children’s programs and says they have become the most watched programs.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC, Telemundo and Peacock.