News

HITN Seeks a Breakthrough in Cable

2/29/2004 7:00 PM Eastern

HITN-TV, a noncommercial educational and cultural network targeted to Hispanics, has begun a full-scale affiliation effort to gain a greater foothold in cable.

The network is currently available to 9.1 million pay households, mostly customers of direct-broadcast satellite platform Dish Network, which offers HITN on three Spanish-language tiers.

HITN also has an affiliation agreement with Time Warner Cable, which has added the channel in New York and New Jersey.

The Spanish-language channel introduced a new affiliation effort here last week at the CableConnects 2004 show.

"Given the feedback from our satellite viewers across Texas, we are confident that cable customers across the state will be equally enthusiastic," chief operating officer Richard Taub said. Taub is overseeing affiliate sales but hopes to hire someone soon to oversee that function.

HITN has been in operation as a network since 1987, with initial carriage only on microwave-distribution systems. It went national in 2000, with carriage on EchoStar Communications Corp.'s Dish platform.

HITN's biggest source of revenue comes from leasing its institutional television fixed-spectrum licenses. The company is also an Internet-service provider in Puerto Rico.

These revenue streams allow HITN to operate without advertising revenue, but sponsorships could become part of the mix in future, Taub said.

Executives say HITN resembles a Spanish-language public-TV station. In past years, that was a hard sell, Taub said.

Potential affiliates did not recognize the aspirational qualities of Hispanics, or that ethnic group's acceptance of public-TV-style stations. Most South American nations have at least one state-run broadcaster that produces public-affairs and educational programming, so immigrants are accepting of the format.

As proof, Taub cited viewership research that indicates Public Broadcasting Service stations overindex among Hispanics, even though the bulk of programs are in English.

HITN acquires programming from Spanish speaking countries around the world, and produces shows of its own, such as Main Street Norte Americano, which documents changes to the American culture caused by the influx of Hispanics, the largest immigrant group.

Production capabilities will be boosted this year with the completion of a $12 million, federal grant-funded production facility at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York City. The 21,000-square-feet facility will house administration and production.

HITN recognizes most affiliates will place the channel in digital tiers. Taub said the license fee is in "double digits," adding other newly launched ethnic channels have rate cards that reportedly call for fees in the range of 5 cents to 14 cents per subscriber.

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