In Spanish-language radio war, a conservative network shifts from satellite to local after launching

Chandan Khanna

When Americano Media became the country’s first Spanish-language conservative network this year, it launched on SiriusXM radio to make a statement about its ambitions to reach Republican-leaning Hispanics from coast to coast.

But a little more than six months later, Americano is leaving satellite radio and shifting to terrestrial broadcast, in partnership with Audacy, the company that acquired CBS Radio in 2017.

“This is the first of many terrestrial radio syndication agreements for Americano, and we look forward to a strong partnership with Audacy,” Americano Media’s founder and CEO, Ivan Garcia-Hidalgo, said in a statement Thursday.

Garcia-Hidalgo and his partners insist the move was all part of the original plan, and they note that Americano’s content can still be accessed on streaming services on platforms like Amazon.

But Democrats say the political media landscape has changed since Americano launched in March, and they’re characterizing the network's shift as a retrenchment that acknowledges a lack of appetite for conservative content among significant numbers of Spanish-language speakers outside Miami's media market, home to multiple conservative shows in Spanish.

Since Americano went on the air, a Democratic-leaning group of investors — including liberal financier George Soros — has signed a $60 million deal to buy 18 radio stations in 10 cities. That prompted a wave of Republican anxiety from conservative media and the likes of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that exceeded the concerns liberals had when Americano launched.

“As many suspected, their first foray into national Spanish-language radio failed,” said Fernand Amandi, a Miami-based Democratic consultant and pollster. “And if they think that entering an oversaturated conservative radio market is a pathway to success, we’ll know very soon and very shortly.”

The Spanish-language information wars took center stage in 2020, when President Donald Trump made unexpected gains among Hispanic voters. Democrats blamed the rise of Spanish-language disinformation; Republicans countered that Democrats were ignoring their own failures in reaching out to Latinos.

Since then, polls suggest, Republicans have kept their share of Latino voters who broke right in 2020, but Democrats have fought back to regain some of the lost ground. Latinos overall still back Democrats by greater margins than they do Republicans.

Americano’s chief strategy officer, Michael Caputo, said it was “totally false” to say the company is retrenching. He said the only way for Americano to break into Spanish-language terrestrial radio across the country was to start with a nationwide platform on SiriusXM, then shift over to one local market and grow from there.

Caputo said Americano will have more listeners on 790 AM in Miami than it does on SiriusXM. The terrestrial station offers sports talk radio as "The Ticket," but programming is scheduled to shift over to Americano’s content on “Radio Libre” on Monday. Audacy will still own the station and use Americano's content and talent under the deal.

Before it partnered with Americano, Audacy, which owns more than 230 stations in 47 markets nationwide, didn’t have a Spanish-language presence in South Florida.

“We’re proud to introduce Spanish radio to our South Florida portfolio for the first time ever and empower the voice of so many of our neighbors in this community,” Claudia Menegus, Audacy’s regional president and market manager, said in a statement. “With the launch of this station, we aim to not only serve our listeners but give them a reliable home for the news they seek and the information they rely on every day.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com