At one with his audience: An interview with Don Cheto


Don ChetoDon Cheto (Juan Carlos Razo) is the host of Liberman Broadcasting’s “El Show de Don Cheto,” a humor- and music-driven morning drive Spanish language variety show heard on 19 affiliates. With Piolin leaving Univision for SiriusXM recently, his previous affiliates are looking for a perfect replacement and finding it in Don Cheto. RBR-TVBR spoke to Don Cheto and Winter Horton, Liberman Broadcasting COO, to hear what makes the show such a hit in its markets:

What was the impetus to bring the El Show del Don Cheto national?

Horton: It has been national for the last couple of years. We are up to 19 markets. We are just putting a push on it now because we are getting a bunch of interest from all of the Piolín stations. I think it turned some heads because Don Cheto’s been beating Piolín in the major markets for a while now. I think there were some people that were carrying Piolín maybe that are using this as a great way to upgrade their morning shows. We have had a lot of interest recently, so we are just trying to get out there with the press.

Was the show previously only on LBI stations before taking it national with syndication?

Horton: No. Of the 19 stations, only 4 of them are LBI owned. We have had a fair amount of affiliates for a while now, across the country. I think there was some headline that this is a big national launch for the first time, but the show has had a national footprint for several years already. Now,with the sudden departure of Piolín and the circumstances under which he left, it’s been great for us.

Do you expect any changes with the show with the variety of different time zones and different cultural settings?

Cheto: Not really. We think that what we’ve been doing for the last 4, 5, 6, 7 years is relevant to the people. Being an immigrant, I know everything they are living through now. I went through every single thing that they go through. There’s not much to change. At the beginning, to get them to know us, we’ll do a little presentation of who we are. But, besides that, I don’t see much of a change.

Horton: There is certainly no change on the corporate side. I think the proof is in the results. In Austin, we are the number one Spanish station there with Don Cheto on KLZT. It already works in other markets. The goal now is to just get in more and more markets.


Winter Horton


Tell us a little bit about the show. What makes it such a hot commodity and what makes it unique?

Cheto: I think the originality of it. We don’t really do jokes. It’s like Don Cheto is funny. He doesn’t try hard to be funny. The less he tries, the more funny he sounds. I think the main reason why people like it is because they see themselves there–either Don Cheto could be their grandparent, their uncle, or maybe somebody’s dad. That way, they can relate to it. It is a good option for people that don’t want to listen to jokes, or set-ups, fake calls, and stuff like that. It is more about the character, the way he talks, the way he thinks. That’s what hits people. They see Don Cheto as one of them. One that is not trying to fit in, like he’s real.

So, you’ve got a lot of people calling in and you do a lot of problem solving, kind of a lot of back and forth communication with the audience, getting into some of their personal situations and things that happen? Are there a lot of call-ins?

Cheto: It is a lot of call-ins. We do talk about immigration, but more like what our community is going through. Like, for example, today we talked about the young people staying with their parents now more than ever. They don’t leave home. So, Don Cheto is like, “I don’t care if they don’t leave home. He’s my son. He can stay as long as he wants.” People are calling in saying, “No. They should leave. They should pay rent.” It is the stuff that we live.

Let’s hear a little bit about some of your ratings successes in some of the markets you are already in.

Horton:  Don Cheto beats Piolín in Riverside and Fresno. In Bakersfield, he’s number one with adults 18-49. In Santa Rosa, he’s number one with adults 18-34. In L.A. he beats Piolin 18-34 and does very well in Dallas also. We just signed Portland, so we will see how that does. They swapped out Piolín for Don Cheto.

What are some of the big advertisers that support the program?

Horton: We have a fair amount of national business. All the big brands…P&G just did a large network buy with Don Cheto. We are happy to support the P&G products. It’s kind of a who’s who of people that run on the show. I guess the difference is, some of the bigger companies, have content restrictions, so they can’t buy Piolín or the Mandril  show, or things like that, that have a lot of the blue humor and content. Don Cheto is a much more advertiser-friendly show. As he mentioned earlier, he doesn’t rely on dirty jokes, crazy call-in’s and sex to sell his show. The personality of Don Cheto is what drives it. That really opens us up to much more advertising than maybe some of the competitor’s shows. It is really refreshing to have a guy who is so popular, without having to resort to sex.

How much is music a part of the show?

Cheto: It is pretty important. Now more than in the past. We play more music than we used to. I would say a year or two years ago, we used to play one song per hour. Now we play 4 or maybe 5 songs per hour. The first hour of the show, we have 3 or 4 mixes.

Are you playing Regional Mexican mostly? Is that the format?

Cheto: That is the format. That is what plays on most of the stations that we are on. They actually base their programming on what we play on air. There are songs playing that they don’t know—they know now because of the show. And then they start playing them on the stations they run.

What do you have to say to the stations that have lost Piolín? What can you bring to an affiliate that maybe he didn’t?

Horton: I think there are many things. One is that Don Cheto also happens to be a large television presence and a big star on our Estrella TV network, on our “Tengo Talento” show. He has publicity across the country, so that helps. The part about being advertiser-friendly, that I mentioned, I think will be a welcome change to a lot of the Piolín stations. I know that there are certain people that have him “hit listed” with certain advertisers. So, they don’t have to worry about that. I think as a company, we are very supportive and we do arrange in-market events, also, a lot in tandem with our television stations. A lot of these radio markets that will pick up the Don Cheto show, we are able to promote Don Cheto on television to drive the ratings in particular markets. And we do in-market events. We do auditions for the talent show that Don Cheto stars in. So, there’s a bunch of advantages to going with the Don Cheto show over Piolín.

Tell us a little bit about Liberman Broadcasting’s syndication.

Horton: It is something that we’ve been doing for a while on the radio side and now we are expanding. We are still a relatively small family-owned company and are happy to go that extra mile. I think Don Cheto, if you haven’t noticed, is one of the most modest superstars out there. He’s very approachable and easy to deal with–none of the big drama that some of the other talent, that aren’t even as good as Don Cheto is, tend to bring with them. Stability. He has been on the air with us for a long time now and we plan to keep him on for a lot longer.

Cheto: I grew up with Liberman, since I was a little kid. I am here. I have been loyal to the company because they treat me well. I don’t have to look for anything else. I’ve got everything I need here with Liberman, and I am pretty sure they know. I never shared this with Winter before, but I am really happy working here. They let me grow, they let me develop. It is hard to find a niche to really just develop your skills. Actually, in my case, to really invent something, it’s really hard. They let me do it. I was 19 years old. I am 32 and I am still with Liberman, as long as they want me.

Don Cheto, what drove you to do that YouTube video and did you have any idea it would get so huge—almost 40 million views?

Cheto: Our boss Lenard Liberman had the idea of me dancing the “Gangnam Style” video for an event we were having. I was leaving the room and he’s like, “No, why don’t we do a video? A really good video?” And I was like “Nah.” It was like a week away from the event I was going to have. I said, “I don’t know. It’s like a week away and I have to write a song.” He said “Yes. You are going to write a song. And then we are going to name it Ganga Style.” I said “I am not gangster.” He said “We might get like a million hits.” Basically, I went home. I wrote a song. The next day I was shooting. Actually, we shot the video without having the song. I had to do the song on the karaoke version. It was really hard, because the idea came up at noon, and tomorrow we were shooting at 8 in the morning.

Well, the first day it was a million hits. Then it kept going up by a million every day for like a week or so. We were so happy. Then all of a sudden we have 15 million and they kept coming. It was an experience that I am pretty sure nobody expected. A lot of people knew me from the video. That really helped us a lot. And I am happy that everything turned out well. When you don’t plan stuff, that’s sometimes when things happen.

Horton: It was the finale number of our annual Premios de la Radio awards show, which is similar to the Latin Grammy’s but honoring the artists from the Regional Mexican genre. This year, we are doing it at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood. That was the closing number. That’s why he’s saying we put it together in a week, because the show was coming up, and it’s a live show. “Ganga Style” was the big finishing number. We got it done and it was a big hit at the show so we put it up online just to see what would happen, and the rest is history.

–Carl Marcucci

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Carl has been with RBR-TVBR since 1997 and is currently Managing Director/Senior Editor. Residing in Northern Virginia, he covers the business of broadcasting, advertising, programming, new media and engineering. He’s also done a great deal of interviews for the company and handles our ever-growing stable of bylined columnists.