Saturdays are about to be a lot less giant. “Sábado Gigante,” the Spanish-language TV staple that brought millions of Latino families together with its madcap contests and cheesy sketch comedy bits, will end its record 53-year run Sept. 19, Univision announced Friday.
For many Latino immigrants and their children, the program has been the equivalent of comfort food, reminding them of the high-energy entertainment of their homeland and serving as a unifier for the Latino diaspora.
Led by carnival barker host Mario Kreutzberger — who used the stage name Don Francisco — the Miami-based “Giant Saturday” looked as if “The Gong Show,” “Let’s Make a Deal” and “Saturday Night Live” were put in a kitschy blender and served up a jumbo, three-hour weekly program.
Though the show is beloved by generations of Latinos, however, ratings have dropped sharply in recent years among the young adults prized by advertisers. And because Kreutzberger owned the rights to the show, Univision would have had to cut a deal with him to keep “Sábado Gigante” on the air.
The show is broadcast in more than 40 countries and boasts tens of millions of weekly viewers, including about 2 million in the United States, most of them in Miami, New York and Los Angeles — making it one of the highest-rated Spanish-language TV shows. By comparison, NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” typically draws 6.2 million viewers each week.
But just as English-language broadcasters have struggled to maintain a mass audience with tent-pole shows in the face of increasing media fragmentation, so have Spanish-language broadcasters.
In the 18-to-34 age group, viewership plunged by 43% for the one-year period ended March 31, compared with the same period that ended…..
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