There are nearly 600 million Spanish speakers in this world, and they have become a highly sought-after audience for streaming services. Netflix announced last year that it would spend $300 million on original Mexican productions. Disney+ said in late 2020 that it had more than 70 original Spanish-language productions in development. WarnerMedia started HBO Max in Latin America in June, announcing a commitment of 100 productions in the region in the next two years. And NBCUniversal’s Telemundo will offer Tplus this fall on Peacock’s premium tier.
On Wednesday, the Mexican broadcast giant Grupo Televisa and U.S.-based Univision unveiled their plans for the largest Spanish-language streaming platform as part of their new merged company, TelevisaUnivision. (The two entities completed their $4.8 billion merger this year with investments from SoftBank and Google, among others.)
Called ViX, the venture will offer both a no-cost tier with commercials and a premium subscription service, the company said.
The free ad-supported service will become available on March 31, and feature more than 100 channels of broadcast-quality content and live programming and over 40,000 hours of on-demand content, including novelas, movies and exclusive channels from entertainers like the Mexican superstar Eugenio Derbez.
ViX+, the premium offering, will debut later in the year. It will have more than 10,000 hours of internationally produced content and more than 60 original productions within the first year. The company has yet to determine the cost of subscriptions.
The service will be available in 19 territories on March 31, including the United States, Mexico and Latin America. Viewers will be able to get it on all the major technology platforms, like Roku and AppleTV. It will incorporate all of TelevisaUnivision’s current streaming services, including the ad-supported Prende TV and the subscriber service Blim TV.
Both tiers will also include live and exclusive soccer content. ViX will feature a sports channel called Zona TUDN 24/7 and a “Game of the Week,” while ViX+ says it will offer more matches for Spanish-language audiences than any other streaming platform, including 3,000 live games a year and all UEFA Champions League matches.
In Mexico, both ViX and ViX+ will show games from this year’s World Cup.
According to Pierluigi Gazzolo, the president of TelevisaUnivision and its chief transformation officer, the legwork done by his streaming competitors has opened the door for TelevisaUnivision.
“They’ve done an incredible job breaking borders,” he said in an interview. “Ten years ago, there was no way a Chilean would have consumed an Argentine show. There was no way a Mexican was going to watch a Spanish show and vice versa.”
Now that the cultural barriers have broken down, Mr. Gazzolo said, he believes his company’s understanding of its diverse audience puts it in the best position to succeed.
“We want to elevate them and give them the respect that they deserve,” he said. “A Mexican is not the same as a Colombian, and an Argentine is not the same as a Puerto Rican. A Mexican in Mexico might be different than a Mexican in California. We understand them.”
TelevisaUnivision has lured some high-level executives from other streaming services. They include Michael Cerdá, a vice president at Disney+, who will oversee product and engineering for ViX, and Rodrigo Mazon, a vice president of content at Netflix, who will manage ViX+ as its executive vice president and general manager.
In its quest for dominance, the company said, it will invest several billion dollars in Spanish-language content and has made deals with a number of notable figures, including the Spanish author María Dueñas, the Nobel Prize-winning Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa and the actress Selena Gomez. Ms. Gomez announced her first Spanish-language project as a producer, the true-crime docuseries “Mi Vecino, El Cartel” (“The Cartel Among Us”), which looks at a murder that rocked a small Texan town and led to a multiyear investigation.
TelevisaUnivision said its Mexican-based film operation, Videocine, will produce 14 original productions for the service in the first year, including “Presencias,” a horror film starring the Academy Award nominee Yalitza Aparicio (“Roma”). It also has a young-adult series, “Pinches Momias,” from the writer-director Santiago Limon, which Mr. Gazzolo described as “very, very similar to ‘Stranger Things’ but as Mexican as it gets.”
“There’s still a big open potential market for these Spanish-language-focused services,” said Sarah Henschel, an analyst at Omdia who covers the streaming markets in North and South America. “Even though Netflix has the scale of the mass general market, only a smaller proportion of their content will be Spanish-language focused. There is hunger in those demographics with people looking for this content.”