Latin Sports Network Goal: U.S. Subs


Cable operators targeting the growing Hispanic market will have one more channel to anchor their digital or analog packages, starting next month.

Pan-American Sports Network, a year-old Latin American programmer with a heavy emphasis on soccer, plans to launch a U.S. channel in May.

The network will kick off as a 24-hour, advertising-supported Spanish-language sports channel focusing on exclusive and live events, said U.S. vice president of affiliate relations Fernando Antonio Gomez.

PSN will provide live telecasts of soccer championships, including the Copa Libertadores games involving Mexico and 10 other Latin American countries; the Copa Mercosur, with teams from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile; and Italy's Il Calcio league. Latin American sports fans know that many Latin American soccer stars play in Il Calcio once the soccer season is over in Latin America, Gomez noted.

"Soccer is really a world sport and in the Latin community, it's really a way of life," Gomez said.

PSN intends to cover all levels of soccer, whether regional, international, national or professional leagues. And in most cases, the sports commentary will be telecast live from the event rather than in the studio, for a greater sense of immediacy.

Soccer legend Pelé will have his own show on PSN and appear exclusively on the network in both the U.S. and Latin America, PSN vice president of communications Dave Fogelson said.

PSN's goal is to deliver most of the content live, but it will air games via tape delay in certain situations. If a tournament is played in Spain and most of the U.S. viewing audience is asleep, for example, games may be aired later in the U.S.

Other programming will include a nightly sports news report, magazine-style shows, interviews and personality profiles.

PSN plans East and West coast feeds in the U.S.; all programming will be broadcast in Spanish. In Latin America, some games from Brazil are announced in Portugese.

Equity firm Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst owns PSN, which holds exclusive rights to much of its soccer content throughout the decade.

PSN is still negotiating affiliate agreements with cable and direct-broadcast satellite operators. Local advertising avails and licensing fees have yet to be finalized.

Unlike some other cable-network launches in recent years, PSN is not expected to pay for carriage. That's because the channel's programming costs — like those of other sports networks — are significant.

Gomez said strong demand for PSN's soccer programming among the U.S. Hispanic audience could help reduce customer churn and justify adding the channel to analog basic.