The press has been the most influential when it comes to generating informative content, particularly the political one. Nevertheless, it is clear that it loses the battle for economic profit, and for reach to the mass of consumers. Television is the queen of the media market in El Salvador. It not only controls more than 40 percent of the advertising market, according to the Superintendency of Competition, but also has tended to growth, as part of the telecommunications sector, between 1990 and 2007, until reaching 4.13 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) last year, according to statistics from the Central Reserve Bank. In 2013, the sector represented 3.96 percent of the total added value in the national economy.
SIGET has reported that there are 53 concessions of television channels. However, the actual number, according to a study of 2016 by the Superintendency of Competition, is reduced to 42 channels because, in some cases, the concessions were reported to the same owner with complementary geographical scopes. Most channels – 35 out of 42 – are private and have a strictly commercial purpose. Eighteen of them have national coverage.
Regarding the remaining 7 non-commercial channels, most of them have religious contents: Three are related to the Roman Catholic Church – the only one with legal recognition in the Salvadoran Constitution – and two are Evangelical Christians. The remaining two are authorised (not licensed) by the Presidency of the Republic (Channel 10, titled El Salvador Television) and by the Parliament (Channel 9). As it is with state radios, Channel 10 has served as a propaganda medium rather than as public television. In addition, media companies managed by the state, were grouped by the Presidency which increased their influence on the informative agenda.
The 25 channels of commercial television, according to the competition report, are owned by 16 business groups or companies. Only five groups own more than half of the licensed channels: Telecorporación Salvadoreña (TCS), with five channels; Megavisión Group, with five; Máxima, with four; Master, with four; and Cable Frecuencias, with three channels. However, only the first two, together with the companies As Media (owner of Channel 12) and Tecnovisión (owner of Channel 33), are the most profitable and most rated groups of Salvadoran television.
TCS owns the main channels of open television: 2, 4, 6, 31 and 35. It is also the highest-income group, according to Competition. In 2013, according to the aforementioned report, TCS presented revenues of US$45.7m in its financial statements. TCS, which began transmitting in 1965, has as main shareholders the Eserki family. The family, one of the most prominent in the Salvadoran economy, has traditionally supported the political right. Its informative and editorial spaces as well. This group of channels has historically been consumed because it has growth amidst an environment of wild deregulation and the absence of antitrust measures, which has given them an advantage over other operators. For example, it has had the rights to transmit the main sporting events, such as the World Cup, and entertainment broadcasts, such as beauty pageants and the American Film Academy Awards.
Its closest competitors reported revenues much lower than TCS: Channel 12, owned by the company AS Media, reported revenues of US$7.1m for 2013; while Grupo Megavisión (of the company Indesit SA de CV), owner of channels 15, 17, 19, 21 and 69, reported US$7.6m; Tecnovision, owner of Channel 33, reported US$2.9m.
By reviewing the ratings of television stations, measured by the company Rivera Media, and validated by the Superintendency of competition, TCS is again at the forefront. In 2014, the most-watched channels were 2, 4, and 6 (all three owned by TCS), 21 (Megavisión), 12 (from as Media) and 19 (also from Megavisión). As a group, TCS channels (2, 4, 6 and 35) had a rating of 66 percent in 2014; Megavisión (with its channels 15, 19 and 21) had a rating of 21 percent .
Nevertheless, even though television has a dominant place in the media market, it is not exempt of the deep transformations occurring in the Salvadorian communication media system due to the changes in the news consumption habits fostered by the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). Digital media are getting increasingly more consumers. According to the iLifebelt report about the social networks dynamic in Central America and the Caribbean, 75 percent of the population use Social Networks to be up to date with current events and news. Although the country has a high digital divide, the increase of news consumption on social networks continues to increase.