Transmedia Telenovelas? Los Americans airs on bus screens in September 2011

The Daily Breeze recently did an article discussing Los Americans, a new telenovela targeting Latinos that take public transportation. The show discusses issues of cultural assimilation and a Latin vision of the American Dream. Important information from the article:

Aired in eight weekly segments beginning Sept. 5, “Los Americans” will appear in three-minute episodes looped to augment workday news, entertainment and local ads.

It targets the Latino majority of Los Angeles County bus riders – for an estimated 1.1 million passenger views a day, or a total of 25 million viewers over eight weeks.

Los Americans is an unusual example of transmedia. The show chose to focus on the physical distribution of storytelling rather than the physical form of the story. The episodes on the bus are so short that they act more like trailers to entice riders to go online to watch full shows.

Los Americans airs online on Public Internet Channel (PIC) which is owned by One Economy. Here is the company description of One Economy:

We help bring broadband into the homes of low-income people, employ youth to train their community members to use technology effectively, and provide public-purpose media properties that offer a wealth of information on education, jobs, health care and other vital issues.

Media Properties? Broadband? Technology? That sounds like transmedia to me.

As to the purpose of Los Americans…

I think Los Americans has nothing to do with social change. The show is a test to see how to establish alternative, direct media channels to groups who make middle America feel uncomfortable. Whether Los Americans succeeds or fails in hooking an audience is irrelevant. What matters is how successful the show physically gets to the audience. It will be interesting to see how a targeted audience that makes up 1/5 of the Latino population of L.A. County responds. Will they spread the message of Los Americans beyond the bus stop?  I am very curious as to how PIC will be tracking views of bus riders who go online to finish episodes? I have so many questions about this show that only time will answer.

If Los Americans succeeds I predict that it will NOT be because of the social messages embedded within each show. Let’s be serious here. Injecting social issues into a script does not mean the show is about social change. Law & Order: SVU is all about traumatic sexual abuse but it is not about social change towards reducing rape. House deals with bizarre and unusual medical issues but its not about social change to improve the health of its viewers. A family dealing with multi-generational substance abuse might make a damn good story to watch from ABC to HBO to PIC but it does not mean its about social change. The hook will be finally seeing the American Latin Experience represented beyond George Lopez and Ricky Ricardo.

So while Los Americans sounds like transmedia to me it also  sounds like it could be a ruse used to reach a target market many businesses have been lusting after for quite a long time.

I’ve watched most of the episodes of Los Americans and so far I like the show – and I’m not even the target demographic. The show is like an ABC drama with a dash of after school specials played by a cast made up of Latin Hollywood royalty.  If my hypothesis is right Los Americans will pave the way for companies to use transmedia to get around Middle America’s sea of cable boxes and netflix subscriptions by using the net to engage other cultures they could not directly reach before through mainstream media channels. Check out episode 2 below then let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment on this article.

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