Metro's' 'Urban Latino' Takes Syndication Flight

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When MetroChannels launched in 1998, Rainbow Media Holdings Inc. CEO Josh Sapan said he wanted to replicate the three-channel showcase of New York-area entertainment and lifestyle elsewhere, including Boston, Cleveland and other DMAs served by Rainbow parent Cablevision Systems Corp.

Sapan's grand plan didn't pan out for a variety of factors, including Cablevision's decision to leave those markets to focus fully on New York and its vicinity. Nonetheless, one of the project's original series is dressing for success outside its Big Apple footprint.

Urban Latino, a weekly program on Latino culture that has run on the MetroTV service since April 7, will head into broadcast syndication on Oct. 7. At least 25 stations are on board for the ride.

Show co-producer Artist & Idea Management is handling syndication efforts. All but one of the station clearances secured thus far are for weekend timeslots.

In Los Angeles, KABC-TV will carry the program, while Viacom Inc.'s Miami duopoly — CBS affiliate WFOR and UPN affiliate WBFS — will run Urban Latino
each week.

Other markets cleared include: Chicago; Dallas, El Paso and Houston, Texas; Las Vegas; Philadelphia; and San Diego. Among the station groups involved are Clear Channel Communications Inc., Cox Broadcasting Inc., Emmis Communications Inc. and Tribune Broadcasting Co.

MetroChannels runs Urban Latino
on MetroTV, which highlights fashion, culture and entertainment subjects. Ratings for the show were unavailable.

The other MetroChannels are MetroStories, a documentary showcase, and Metro Traffic and Weather, with around-the-clock traffic and weather report, round out the venture.

Syndication was in Urban
's game plan from the outset, said Robert Rose, president of AIM and the program's executive producer.

"Metro structured the deal to allow us the syndication ability," he added. "We assumed all along we would do well enough in New York this spring to attempt a national fall launch."

Of seven available minutes per episode for advertising, AIM will hold half for national barter sale. No barter sponsors have been announced yet.

Rose, who was a former Univision Communications Inc. sales executive before creating AIM, said the show's format in syndication should sidestep complaints from MSOs about yet another piece of cable programming going to broadcast.

In recent weeks, ABC picked up a short flight of Monk
episodes from USA Network, with solid results so far. Also, NBC recently launched a month of Forensic Files
segments from Court TV.

For now, MetroChannels will continue to play Urban's first 13 episodes, all highlighting New York themes and talent. The syndicated episodes will be national in nature, featuring reports from Los Angeles, Florida and Texas. At least 22 episodes will be produced for national play.

AIM is discussing a set of new episodes — with strictly New York material — with MetroChannels.

"The only way the cable-exclusivity issue would pop up is if we get a New York broadcaster, and there are no plans for that," Rose said.

Along with working out a second round of shows with MetroChannels, Rose's firm wants to develop additional Latino community shows for them, as well as with other cable services.

"We've proven that there's room for many more shows targeted to this market. My hat's off to MetroTV," Rose said. "They jumped in with support for this show when the local broadcast outlets were next to impossible to get involved. We'll use them and others as a lab for more."

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