Fighting to Stand Out From the Crowd

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A Mexico City native,
Fernanda Merodio knows a thing or two about Hispanic television. Before joining
Olympusat in March 2009, she was director of marketing at Sorpresa, where she
was responsible for the development and implementation of the children
network's brand across all business lines. Prior to that, she was deputy
director of programming at Alterna'TV, where she was at the helm of launching
eight Spanish-language channels in both satellite and cable platforms. As two
of Olympusat's networks -- Latele Novela and Cine Mexicano -- debuted this
month on Bright House Networks'
Tampa Bay, Fla., system, Merodio
spoke to Hispanic TV Update about the
challenges of selling Spanish-language content in an increasingly competitive
market. An edited transcript follows
:

MCN: Your company currently distributes 10 networks that target the Hispanic
consumer. What would you say is the biggest challenge in doing this?

Fernanda Merodio

Fernanda Merodio: First of all, it's getting a place and fighting for the
bandwidth. There are so many options now and so many channels, not only in
English targeting the general market, but also from all over the world that the
biggest challenge is getting a place. Secondly, I would say is getting the
attention of the MSOs about your programming.

Eight
years ago, when I started working in the Hispanic TV industry, we had to
convince a lot of MSOs about the importance of the market ... and while it's true
that now they are paying more attention, I still think Hispanic programming is
not among their priorities.

MCN: What do you have to do to get their attention?

FM: Well,
everybody now knows Hispanics are the biggest minority, with an enormous
purchasing power, so we are gaining more attention from cable operators and
advertisers. Still, we need to pull a lot of research and show them the
numbers. In our case, we have to make a point to show them the relevancy of our
content.

Yes, content matters. Several
years ago, if you were in Spanish, OK, you were launched ... but right now,
content is king. This means that not just because you have a Spanish-language
channel you will be added to a tier; now your channels must have relevant
content for [its] community and a way to communicate and reach the different
segments of the community. And Olympusat does precisely that.

MCN: Would you say that MSOs are overall more aware of Spanish-language
content and can discriminate between one network and the other?

FM: As I said,
it has gotten a lot better. We are seeing in many markets and with many clients
that they are starting to view and review the content to see how it's doing.
They want to know who's watching, and what is not being watched. And when a
channel is not performing well, they will call you and ask you and try to
figure out what's going on.

Right now, it's not anymore about
language but about the quality of the content. You will see eventually that
some channels will be substituted, and others will simply be dropped.

MCN: Why do you say your 10 networks cover the different segments?

FM: There is
Cine Mexicano, which targets the male demo; there is Latele Novela, mostly
targeted to women. Then there is Sorpresa for kids, and then we have channels
that offer general entertainment and high cross-over potential like TV Chile
which has an amazing production quality and content that is attractive for
everyone in the family.

MCN: You are a big believer in partnering with MSOs to promote your channels.
Why is that?

FM: This is particularly important for Hispanic channels.
For example, a channel like Latele Novela has excellent content, but still it's
on a Hispanic tier and we might not have a big budgets like say, Disney [Channel]
or Lifetime, which have big subscriber bases. On the other hand, MSOs need to
increase their subscriber base. So we need to have partnerships more often to
raise awareness of the MSOs and then of their Hispanic package.

MCN: Can you give us an example?

FM:
Earlier
this month (April 5), we launched a Mother's Day promotion for Latele Novela,
offering the winners a trip to Miami, where they will get a makeover by [famous stylist]
Leonardo Rocco. What's interesting about this is that it is a nationwide
promotion, but we are also promoting it locally through the MSOs in top
Hispanic markets. For the online component, we partnered with Time Warner
Cable, and we're being promoted on their Spanish-language Web site.

In addition to partnering with
their online team, we also launched a campaign along with TWC's regional
offices so that people from New York, New Jersey, Texas and California are able to participate. We are helping them in the
promotion by sending everyone to their Spanish-language site. The campaign runs
through April 25 and we'll by flying the winners to Miami in May 14 to 16. This promotion is great because, on
the one hand, Time Warner Cable promotes El Paquetazo and we promote Latele
Novela.

MCN: Are there similar partnerships on the way?

FM: We do have
plans for Cine Mexicano and Sorpresa this year, but we want to take everything we
learn from this campaign and apply it to upcoming promotions. I'm sure this
process will be very educational.

MCN: Hispanic marketers and media properties are already anticipating a
windfall from the 2010 Census. How will the current census affect your business?

FM: I don't
think it's going to have a significant impact as it did in 2000. That was the
year when the Hispanic community, which wasn't really noticed before, got a lot
of attention. This time around, I don't think now we'll see something that will
make companies change their strategies. I just hope it will reaffirm the
importance of reaching the Hispanic community with relevant content.

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