NY1 spins off a Spanish-language channel

Dec 16, 2002  •  Post A Comment

After serving up news around the clock in the country’s biggest city for the past 10 years, NY1 News is expanding en Espanol. New York’s all-news channel plans to spin off a Spanish-language version of NY1 in May that will feature a half-hour news wheel updated throughout the day.
The coverage will include both repurposed content from NY1 News and fresh material gathered specifically for the Spanish-language channel, which is yet to be named, said Steve Paulus, NY1 general manager. “We don’t just want to take NY1 content and voice-over in Spanish,” he said. “Obviously, there is a difference in what Latinos want.”
For instance, NY1’s reporters would continue to roll cameras at the many city hall press conferences involving Latino leaders when they segue from English to Spanish, he said. Latinos who live in New York and speak Spanish have the same concerns that other New Yorkers do about tax hikes and commuter issues, for instance, and the channel will cover those stories as well, he said. Coverage will be similar to NY1, but the Spanish-language channel may reach out more to local Latino leaders, such as Adolfo Carri ‘n Jr., the borough president of the Bronx, Mr. Paulus said.
Most news for both channels will be collected in Spanish and English, and interviews will be conducted in both languages, he said. “I think the beauty is that it will improve the mothership as well because we will go out and gather news bilingually,” he said. “We will cover a story in Spanish and get sound bites in English too.”
NY1 News is currently gauging the level of interest the Hispanic community will have in the channel to determine how best to program for it. “The potential is it could become an NY1 in terms of stature,” Mr. Paulus said. “It could become as important to New York as NY1.”
Seven employees will be added to the NY1 staff and all 161 employees will produce both channels. All the new hires will need to be bilingual. They will include anchors/producers, reporters/field producers and a manager, who will oversee the overall content. The Spanish-language service will be carried on Time Warner Cable’s digital tier. Time Warner Cable counts 500,000 digital subscribers out of its 1.2 million-customer base in New York.
The cable system plans to introduce a digital package geared for the Spanish market in the second quarter of 2003. Customers ordering digital service could then select the Spanish version of the digital tier or the traditional English version, said a Time Warner Cable spokesperson. Time Warner Cable has not yet decided on which digital tier the NY1 Spanish-language channel will be offered.
The cost to launch the channel will range from $500,000 to $1 million, though the final number will probably be closer to the lower end of the estimate, Mr. Paulus said. Costs include staffing, new design elements and construction of a new set.
Advertiser interest has been strong, with companies such as Verizon expressing interest. Electronics companies, travel firms and airlines have shown interest as well, he said.
Given the advertiser appeal, the pending launch of the Spanish-language tier on the local cable system and the fact that the Spanish-language community in New York has been underserved, the timing seemed right for the new channel, Mr. Paulus said. In addition, NY1 has a model in the success of sister channel Bay News 9 en Espanol, a Spanish-language service spun off from Bay News 9 in Tampa, Fla., the 24-hour Time Warner Cable news channel serving the Tampa area.
The channel launched in March with a 15-minute news wheel, broke even over the last few months and will be profitable as it finishes the year, said Elliott Wiser, VP and general manager of Bay News 9.
The key to introducing a Spanish-language channel successfully is to understand the cultural and language differences among the different pockets in a Hispanic community, Mr. Wiser said. His three staffers for Bay News 9 en Espanol hail from Venezuela, Colombia and the Dominican Republic, a diversity that reflects well the demographics of Tampa, he said. About 60 percent of the channel’s content is repurposed and about 40 percent is original, he said.
A Spanish-language news channel targets an underserved niche, said Alex Nogales, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. The NY1 News Spanish-language channel can succeed if the reporters are able to truly dig into the Hispanic community and flesh out the news rather than simply dubbing the English-language channel into Spanish, he said.