Despite economic uncertainty, a fragmented media marketplace and increasing competition, the co-founder and Chairman of Spanish Broadcasting System is upbeat about the future of Spanish-language radio. Alarcón co-founded Miami-based SBS in 1983 with his father, Pablo Raúl Alarcón Sr., after the Alarcón family moved to the U.S. from Cuba, where Alarcón Sr. owned a group of radio stations. “He loved being on the air,” Alarcón says of his father. “It was his life’s passion.”
According to Variety, Alarcón Sr. didn’t know a word of English when the family arrived in New York City in the early 1960s. He got an on-air job at Spanish-language WBNX-AM – the calls stood for the Bronx. The elder Alarcón eventually became the station’s program director and general manager before launching his own ad agency catering to the local Hispanic market.
“I grew up with my father coming home from work with a bunch of records under his arm,” Alarcón told Variety on the occasion of receiving its Legends & Groundbreakers Award at its Miami Entertainment Town event on April 13. “We’d listen to them together into the early hours of the morning. When he first was hired, the station’s programming consisted of old trios and guitar groups, romantic balladists from Spain and South America and the old mambo and cha-cha-cha orquestras. He came into it with a very modern brand of radio, the emerging Top 40 format with jingles, promos and artists that didn’t get exposure anyplace else.”
Their first U.S. radio station was “La Super 1380” WSKQ New York. Alarcón Jr. has been SBS president since 1985, CEO since 1994 and chairman since 1999.
SBS is the largest Hispanic-owned Spanish-language radio company in the U.S. It owns and operates 21 radio stations in the top U.S. Hispanic markets of New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, Tampa, Orlando, and Puerto Rico. SBS also operates AIRE Radio Networks.
Under Alarcón and Albert Rodriguez, who advanced from COO to President in 2021, SBS continues to expand its radio footprint. Last April the Spanish language broadcaster added stations in Tampa and Orlando to its portfolio, launching tropical “El Zol 95.3” WPYO Orlando and “El Zol 97.1” WSUN Tampa. That gave it a presence in what it calls the Golden Triangle – the Florida markets of Miami, Tampa, and Orlando.
In February, after years of pressure from analysts to exit the TV business and focus solely on radio and digital, SBS said it would sell its “Mega TV” television division for $64 million to Voz Media. Stations included in the deal are WSBS-DCA19 and WSBS-DTV 3 in Miami; and WTCV-DTV 21, WVEO-DTV 17, and WWOZ-DTV 36 in Puerto Rico.
Alarcón was honored by Variety just as the latest numbers from the RIAA showed Latin music with record-setting revenues in the U.S. in 2022, hitting the $1 billion mark for the first time. Powered by acts such as Bad Bunny, Karol G and Rosalia, Latin grew 24% year-over-year, from a total revenue of $881 million in 2021 to $1.1 billion last year, according to the RIAA’s year-end Latin music report. The genre's overall share of the total music market gained a full percentage point from 2021, moving from 5.9% to 6.9%.
Alarcón spoke with Variety about the “enormous satisfaction that comes from knowing that every single day, our company touches the lives of millions of Latino listeners, entertaining and informing them while providing a platform for thousands of businesses wanting to reach the nation’s fastest-growing consumer — as well as hundreds of our nation’s politicians wanting to secure the decisive and elusive Hispanic swing vote. These absolutes remain as true today as they were 40 years ago, only more so … and growing!” he added.
Read the entire Variety story HERE.