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More Players Spice Up the Game

Mar 17, 2003  •  Post A Comment

While Univision and Telemundo dominate Hispanic television, new entrants have cropped up in their space during the past year seeking to deliver niche audiences among the estimated 37 million Americans who consider Spanish their first language.
Sorpresa!, which means surprise in English, was scheduled to debut March 15 to 400,000 subscribers on 350 cable systems as a digital basic network or on a digital Hispanic tier. Initial systems include Time Warner in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. The channel targets Hispanic children and tweens.
Firestone Communications is launching the network, a move made possible in part because it acquired the assets of bankrupt Hispanic Television Network, including the network’s 43,000-square-foot facility and cable distribution agreements. One in six kids in the United States is Hispanic, said Leonard Firestone, chairman and CEO of Firestone Communications.
The network will target preschoolers in the morning and afternoon and tweens in the evening with programming from Spain and Latin America, among other places.
La Familia Network, a digital channel for Hispanic family viewing, launched a year ago and now reaches 100,000 subscribers in four markets: New York; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Albany, N.Y.; and Houston. The network has about 10 to 20 launches pending over the next few months and should finish the year with somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 subscribers, said Tom Hohman, senior VP, affiliate relations, The Inspiration Networks, which owns La Familia Network. The growth is indicative of the interest in Hispanic programming and in the family genre, Mr. Hohman said. “There has been a void in a network that addresses the family,” he said.
mun2 hit the air in October 2001 and was formerly GEMS, a Spanish-language cable network for women, reaching 3.8 million subscribers. NBC acquired mun2 when it bought Telemundo last year and has grown the digital network from a little more than 5 million subscribers to nearly 6 million. “We are very much into the youth culture,” said Yolanda Foster, VP of programming and promotions for mun2.
“We are primarily an English-language network but in a Spanish culture, with programming and music that reflect that,” Ms. Foster said. The network serves as a complement to Telemundo, she said. “The future of Telemundo’s audience will be my audience. It’s almost like you take the whole process of immigration from Telemundo to mun2.”
The growth of such channels is fueled by digital tiering on cable systems. Time Warner Cable of New York launched its “DTV en Espanol” option in January. Cox is evaluating the possibility of offering such a tier. NY1 plans to launch a Spanish-language version of its all-news channel in Spanish on the Time Warner tier in May.