DirecTv Inc. is planning to launch, around midyear, an
'ethnic neighborhood' of foreign-language programming networks separate from the
current DirecTv service, executives familiar with the plans said last week.
Rick Moe, chief operating officer of Ethnic American
Broadcasting Co. in Fort Lee, N.J., said he was working with DirecTv on plans for the
'We're going to put 20 channels up, of which we
have five that we own and operate ourselves, and the remainder are channels that we
already have exclusive distribution for in the U.S.' or plan to distribute, he said.
The final programming mix and pricing decisions have not been finalized yet, said Moe, a
former Galaxy Latin American executive.
EABC distributes a Russian-language network in the U.S.
that has 60,000 subscribers, partly through cable carriage in New York City, Moe said.
An executive close to DirecTv, who said he was familiar
with the plans, confirmed the Hughes Electronics Corp. unit and a sister service, Galaxy
Latin America, are preparing a midyear launch of a new U.S. direct-to-home service with a
variety of ethnic programming, centered around Spanish-language networks.
'If they have a complete package of ethnic product,
and of course strong Spanish-speaking product, they can grow it a lot,' said the
executive, who asked not to be identified.
That market -- traditionally underpenetrated by cable --
has drawn lots of attention lately. Tele-Communications Inc. and its programming unit,
Liberty Media Corp., are planning to launch a suite of 10 to 12 Spanish-language services
in a new digital tier. EchoStar Communications Corp.'s Dish Network also plans to add
Satellite-industry sources said DirecTv has approached
manufacturers, including Thomson Electronics Corp., about building equipment to receive
the new service.
DirecTv spokesman Bob Marsocci would not comment on any
'I would regard that as a rumor,' he said, adding
DirecTv is always considering new programming, including foreign-language fare.