The Box will launch two music-video channels -- one
featuring Tejano tunes, and the other mainstream Latin music -- as part of a tier of
Spanish-language digital networks that Liberty Media Group is rolling out this year.
As the result of a 10-year deal struck between The Box and
Liberty Spanish Group L.L.C., the two new interactive-music networks are slated to debut
in June at select Tele-Communications Inc. systems, officials said last week.
"We're enthusiastic about this," said Alan
McGlade, president of The Box. "It's [the Hispanic population] a quickly growing
audience. And there's a lot of potential with this digital tier."
Liberty's Spanish tier is expected to reach 3 million
homes within the next three to four years, the company's officials said.
Late last year at the Western Show, Liberty unveiled its
plan to create a digital package of one-dozen or more Spanish-language networks, including
a Spanish version of The Box. That tier will be carried on TCI's Headend in the Sky
According to the original announcement, The Box was going
to create one Spanish-language service called "El Box." But The Box has opted to
create two digital networks, in effect regionalizing the network, in order to target the
different groups within the United States Hispanic population, according to McGlade.
The Spanish populations in Texas and California lean toward
Tejano, or Mexican, music, while their counterparts in the East and in cities like Chicago
prefer more mainstream Latin music, he said.
The mainstream channel, for example, will feature videos of
artists such as Gloria Estefan, McGlade said. And while the music videos and interstitials
will primarily be in Spanish, some might also be in English, he added, noting that the
audience being targeted is typically bilingual.
As for the moniker "El Box," it tested poorly
with consumers, McGlade said. So at this point, The Box is still researching what to call
its two Latin digital-music networks.
Like The Box's analog network, viewers of the two
music-video channels can call in to request videos, with the fees billed directly to their
phones. The Box's parent, The Box Worldwide Inc., was acquired by TCI Music in
The Box has a full Latin playlist of Spanish-language
videos in some markets in California and Texas. And in Miami, it plays a blend of pop and
Latin music, McGlade said.
The Box already has a multiplex of four digital channels,
The Box Set, that is being carried on HITS. But those networks and The Box's new
Spanish-language digital channels will soon be getting competition.
In July, MTV Networks will launch "The Suite from MTV
and VH1," its package of seven digital-music-video networks. One of those networks is
"MTV Ritmo," which will feature Latin-oriented dance/pop, Tejano, Cuban and
McGlade said it was too soon to tell exactly what MTV Ritmo
will play, but he expects it to lean toward Caribbean or tropical-type music, which is
different from his Latin digital networks, although The Box may mix in some elements of
The Box analog channel now reaches 5 million U.S. cable
homes and another 18 million via broadcast.