Home Box Office last week said it will back the launch of HBO Latino, its new Spanish-language premium channel, with an affiliate-based promotional campaign called "Ciudad Caliente," or "Hot City."
HBO Latino's consumer launch is set for today (Sept. 18), and follows test feeds beamed to cable and satellite affiliates last Monday.
The HBO Latino effort will celebrate the unique Hispanic communities in top Latino markets across the country, as well as their common heritage, with grassroots efforts tied to Hispanic Heritage Month.
The channel's launch was timed to take advantage of the annual festivities, said HBO Latino director Bernadette Aulestia.
A national sweepstakes will also make new HBO subscribers eligible for a trip for two to one of three heavily Latino cities: Los Angeles, New York or Miami. Winners will be treated to a weekend of cultural activities such as dinners at local Hispanic restaurants and tickets to a special event.
The contest is part of a larger marketing effort designed to encourage a dialogue between HBO Latino and its target audience, Aulestia said. At grassroots events and select local retailers, Latinos will be asked to vote those things that make their communities hot. Those ballots will make them eligible for the national sweepstakes.
HBO is creating interstitial programming segments featuring the various Latino communities, in which viewers from across the U.S. tell one another which restaurants they frequent and what activities they do for fun.
The network has set up three regional bureaus with producers and video jockeys responsible for providing local programming to the national feed. The segments will include short spots on entertainment and celebrity profiles, as well as consumer viewpoints.
"People are proud not only of their Latino identities, but also of their cities," Aulestia said. The Hispanic market must be addressed differently than other television audiences because of its diversity, she added.
Besides Los Angeles, New York and Miami, other top markets participating in the HBO Latino affiliate campaign include Chicago, San Antonio, Phoenix, Houston, San Diego and El Paso, Texas.
For a limited time, new HBO subscribers in each of those markets will receive a special-edition HBO Latino "Ciudad Caliente" T-shirt created specifically for their hometown.
In addition to providing celebrities to appear at local events, HBO Latino has provided affiliates with cross-channel spots, radio ads, newspaper slicks and direct-mail pieces. The promotional materials were created primarily
in Spanish, although English-language pieces will also be available.
Hispanic homes "tend to be bilingual, even within the home," Aulestia said. However, much of the focus in those homes remains on Spanish, she added.
About half of the U.S. Hispanic marketplace is Spanish-dominant, which means they prefer to watch television in that language. HBO already attracts bilingual and English-language Hispanic television viewers, Aulestia said, adding that the new feed will help gain the attention of the Spanish-dominant market as well.
HBO Latino will also appeal to bilingual viewers who prefer to watch specific types of programs, such as music, in Spanish, even if they choose to watch popular-culture favorites such as The Sopranos or Sex and the City on the main English-language feed, she added.
"It's all about choice," Aulestia said.
HBO has long made a Spanish audio feed available for much of its programming. But Hispanic viewers will appreciate the convenience of a channel dedicated to them, Aulestia said, as they no longer must go out of their way to access a secondary audio feed for Spanish-language programming.
As of earlier this month, the number of affiliates at launch was "still a moving target," Aulestia said, as the programmer was still signing up operators. The network is expected to bow before about 20 percent of U.S. Hispanic households, she added.
Among those operators carrying the network are Cox Communications Inc., Comcast Corp., AT & T Broadband, Time Warner Cable, Adelphia Communications Corp. and DirecTV Para Todos.
The channel is promoted as part of the "HBO The Works" multiplex package, sold with the main English-language feed.
In its two years spent developing the channel, Aulestia said, HBO learned "this is really how consumers want the channel sold in."
HBO Latino will launch a stand-alone national media promotion in November, following the local affiliate campaigns. Its theme will be based on "what it means to have Latin blood," Aulestia said.