Cox, Belo Reach for Mas Viewers in Arizona


Mas! Arizona, the Spanish-language local news channel in Phoenix, has undergone some significant changes since its debut in 2000.

The service now offers more than just local news, for example. It has added local sports to its schedule, namely games involving Major League Baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks and the National Basketball Association's Phoenix Suns.

Mas! Arizona is a spinoff of the Arizona News Channel, a partnership between Cox Communications Inc., Phoenix's dominant cable operator, and Belo Corp., which owns the city's powerful independent station, KTVK-TV.

Phoenix was a natural for an all-Spanish local-news channel. It's the ninth-largest U.S. Hispanic market, with a population of 936,000 Latinos that is growing quickly. And the local-news network is providing some useful lessons in this ethnic market for Dallas-based Belo.

"Mas! Arizona is an important experiment, and I think we have learned a great deal," said Jack Sander, Belo's executive vice president of media operations and president of its TV group. "It has not turned out to be exactly what we expected. We've made some changes as we go.

"Initially, we started out 100 percent news. We now do news and some sports."

Suns games started airing on Mas! Arizona in fall 2000, and the Diamondbacks took the field in spring 2001.

"That helped us broaden our audience a little bit and it gave us a little bit more of a selling platform because what we found was we were probably a little too limited when we launched," Sander said. "The things that have worked are we have a big news operation out there, and to meld Mas! Arizona with that big news operation has worked very, very well."

In addition to leveraging the resources of KTVK-TV, the 24-hour Spanish network also has its own dedicated staff.

It's possible for an Anglo crew from KTVK-TV or a Hispanic crew from Mas! Arizona to do work for both those outlets, or for a bilingual reporter to do a story for the TV station as well as the Hispanic news network, Sander said.

Mas! Arizona's format is a half-hour news wheel, with live newscasts at noon, 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. It is available on expanded basic as well as digital in Phoenix, and therefore reaches Cox's entire footprint there — some 630,000 homes.

"This is one element in terms of increasing our penetration in the Latino segment," said Tony Maldonado, Cox's vice president of marketing in Phoenix.

A few months ago, KTVK-TV started to promote Mas! Arizona by having some of the Spanish network's anchors present brief segments on some Hispanic-related news issue of the day on the TV station's 10 p.m. newscast. The idea: to reach bilingual viewers and persuade them to tune into Mas! Arizona after the English newscast ends for more details on the topic.

"We love that from a marketing perspective," said Fran Mallace, vice president and general manager of Cox's CableRep Arizona, which handles ad sales for Mas! Arizona.

The network has a sales team of five people selling it, including sales manager Pablo Feliz. Mas! Arizona's roster of advertisers "mirrors our English operation," according to Feliz, with local, regional and national sponsors, including clients from the automotive, legal, insurance and retail categories.

National rep firm National Cable Communications has also just began handling Mas! Arizona, so Feliz will be traveling to Los Angeles to make sales calls with NCC.

"We're hoping to see a lift in the national business," Mallace said.