Rainbow to Serve International Fare

Nov 24, 2003  •  Post A Comment

You could call it video-on-de-Mandarin.
Citing the fast growth of the foreign-language-speaking population in the United States, Cablevision Systems’ Rainbow Media Holdings is introducing new services featuring an array of programming from overseas, including China and Russia.
Gregg Hill, executive VP of affiliate sales and marketing for Rainbow, sees an opportunity for foreign-language programming now in “the explosion in census data of the ethnic populations matching the expansion of bandwidth. The timing is very good.”
Under the umbrella brand World Picks, Rainbow is offering on-demand services featuring exclusive programs in Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Spanish and Russian. The Hindi, Spanish and Russian services are already available to Cablevision digital subscribers in the New York area.
The on-demand titles will be refreshed every month, and program information will be available in English and in native languages on the Web site Worldpicks.com.
At the same time, Rainbow is offering cable operators 13 networks from foreign countries. Cablevision is already offering five of those networks as part of a Spanish-language package.
The networks-including India’s Mee TV, Romanian TV, China’s CCTV-4 and Argentina’s Elgorumet.com-appear just as they appear where they originate on a seven-day, 24-hour basis.
Five of the Spanish-language networks already are available to Cablevision subscribers as part of the operator’s 30-network Spanish-language package.
“These are networks they’ll remember from home,” Mr. Hill said.
World Picks would compete with the International Channel, which offers programming in 22 languages to subscribers in 12 million homes.
International Channel President Kent Rice said he welcomes Rainbow’s entry into the market. “Anybody that is adding focus on the category helps build the market, which has been terribly neglected over the past five years by the cable operators.” He said EchoStar has been able to use international programming to add subscribers.
Mr. Rice said that International Channel has concentrated on programming that is non-Latin and non-African.
It announced its own on-demand products featuring programming in Russian, Mandarin and Vietnamese in June. No cable operators have signed up for the services yet, but Mr. Rice said he expects them to be fully operational in the first quarter.
Mr. Hill declined to say how much Rainbow is spending to launch World Picks.
“It will take years for us to build the brand. Rainbow and Cablevision are very patient, building brands right,” he said.
Rainbow has just begun discussions with other operators, particularly those with systems in the largest markets. “It seems like a lot of cable companies want to reach out to this audience,” he said.
He declined to comment on whether Time Warner Cable, which Rainbow sued over carriage of Rainbow’s AMC channel, is likely to offer the service.
The service will also be available to satellite distributors, who can use PVRs to offer VOD.
Rainbow is open to different price points for the service, Mr. Hill said. Cable operators will give Rainbow a portion of the fees they receive from subscribers; Rainbow in turn will pay a portion of those fees to program suppliers and the networks involved.
Local Marketing
Rainbow had already developed relationships with foreign program producers and distributors through its work with Bravo International, said Cynthia Burnell, senior VP and general manager of digital media at Rainbow.
Much of the marketing will be done at the local level. Billboards will appear in ethnic neighborhoods and cinema slides will be shown in theaters that offer foreign-language films.
Rainbow’s field marketing teams will also give World Picks coffee cups to bodegas in some neighborhoods.
Rainbow already offers a number of on-demand products, including Mag Rack, IFC on Demand, Uncensored, Fuse on Demand and Sports Skool.