Cuban-American TV Venture Takes Flight

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Three Cuban-American businessmen are pouring their hearts and their money into a programming venture targeted at their South Florida community.

The venture, TVC Television, has already bought daily eight-hour blocks of time on AT&T Broadband and Charter Communications systems in Florida's Dade and Broward counties. The programming block was launched on those systems July 3. Adelphia Communications Corp. is scheduled to launch the block of leased-access programming on Aug. 1.

The venture is the brainchild of José Ramon Grau, a Puerto Rico-based Cuban businessman; Enrique Grau, co-founder of Puerto Rico's largest daily newspaper and senior vice president and head of the news operation for TVC; and Gustavo Cubas, a Miami public relations executive who is TVC's senior vice president.

"This is something the community wants," said Eduardo Palmer, deputy general manager of TVC. "Telemundo and Univision have a Mexican orientation."

That focus may make sense in the broad Hispanic marketplace, since a majority of that community identified itself as Mexican in the recent U.S. Census.

But in Miami, 53 percent of the Hispanic community is Cuban and 16 percent is of Puerto Rican or Nicaraguan origin, Palmer added. Latinos represent 300,000 of the cable households in Dade and Broward, the executive said.

"We feature actors, comedians, singers of Caribbean heritage. It's something our focus group said they are eager to see," he said.

The programming block begins at 4 p.m. with a feature film, followed with an hour of soap opera. A variety show, Fiesta at 7 P.M.
is a "Jay Leno kind of thing," Palmer said. Comedies fill the hours until TVC's news programming begins at 10 p.m.

The news will give voice to some prominent anti-Castro commentators from Florida. The most prominent is Armando Perez Roura — a talk show host on Radio Mambi — who has been described by the local press as "the Rush Limbaugh of Cuban-Americans."

Other featured presenters include Agustin Tamargo, also of Radio Mambi, and Rafael Diaz-Balart, a minister under Fulgencio Batista in Cuba during the 1950s.

Palmer noted the local press has called TVC an anti-Castro network. "We are anti-Castro, but that's not our focus. We provide entertainment."

TVC launched with a budget of $4 million to $5 million, Palmer said. The venture's ad-sales staff is hitting Miami businesses and ad agencies, reinforcing the message that Cuban-Americans boast the most purchasing power of any segment of Florida's Hispanic population.

An AT&T Broadband spokeswoman said no joint marketing is planned between the operator and the programmer. TVC has purchased print and radio ads to drive viewership, and backers believe they can sell enough ads to eventually support a full programming day and expand into other markets.