A Venezuelan-born couple is cornering the Hispanic media market in Southwest Florida. They started modestly.
When Orlando and Mayela Rosales started Media Vista a dozen years ago, all they started with was a camera and an editing station that cost $15,000.
Today, Media Vista has become the dominant Hispanic media company in the region that stretches from Charlotte County to Marco Island. Its properties include a television station affiliate of Azteca America, a magazine, and a website that all produce local content.
Now, Media Vista has an agreement to purchase the Univision station in Fort Myers and two other stations in Kansas City and Minneapolis. The deal is scheduled to close in the next few months for an undisclosed sum.
“We were waiting for this to happen for a long time,” says Mayela Rosales, vice president. “We have a lot of room to grow.”
Indeed, the Hispanic market has been one of the fastest-growing segments of the population. For example, in Collier County, Hispanics now account for 26% of the population and 52% of the school population. Hispanics make up 21% of the five-county region that includes Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee.
Despite Hispanics' significant presence, some advertisers mistakenly believe that the population declined precipitously during the downturn, but many Hispanics are permanent residents. “They thought all the Hispanics were gone,” says Mayela Rosales.
Fact is, Hispanics are big spenders because they're seeking greater opportunity than their country of birth, says Orlando Rosales. “People come here to have a better life,” he says.
The Rosaleses themselves moved to Naples from Maracaibo, Venezuela, for that reason in 1996. Orlando Rosales had been hired by a Naples company to handle software issues. Previously he had worked for Venezuela's oil and phone companies. With Mayela Rosales's background in journalism and public relations, they realized the opportunity to start a Hispanic media company in 2001.
They started by buying airtime on the local UPN affiliate and they filmed a show with Mayela Rosales as the host while Orlando Rosales shot the camera and edited the footage. The show quickly became a hit and the couple later partnered with a Miami investor who owned a television station affiliated with Azteca America in Cape Coral.
The Rosaleses also started a magazine called D'Latinos Magazine (circulation: 16,000) and launched a website, dlatinos.tv, that now has 150,000 unique visitors a month. “We sell advertising as a multi-platform package,” says Mayela Rosales.
One of the key selling points is that Media Vista produces shows and publishes articles that focus on the local Hispanic population. “We are content producers,” says Mayela Rosales.
Unfortunately, the economic downturn forced the couple's Miami investor and partner into bankruptcy and the Rosaleses were forced to trim Media Vista's employee count to 12 from 22. “We had no choice,” explains Mayela Rosales. “We had to do it to survive.”
By 2010, business started to pick up as advertisers began spending once more. While Orlando Rosales declines to cite revenues, he says annual sales rose 35% in 2011 and another 20% in 2012.
Significantly, the national elections in November reminded business owners of the power of the Hispanic population. In addition, a resolution of the immigration issue could be a plus for Media Vista. “People will feel more confident about spending money,” says Mayela Rosales.
With the economic recovery, the Rosaleses are confident that their proposed acquisition of the Univision affiliate in Fort Myers will turn out to be a smart move. “We don't know the strategy yet; we don't want to disclose that,” says Mayela Rosales.
For his part, Orlando Rosales says the Kansas City and Indianapolis markets present new opportunities to expand. “My plan is to spend months in these markets to make it work,” he says. “We have a lot of passion for this business.”