MTVN Sets Caribbean 'Tempo’

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MTV Networks is banking that Tempo, a new Caribbean music and culture network, will have appeal not only in the islands but in the United States as well.

The new ad-supported service, announced last week, will launch in markets across the islands through a carriage deal with 100,000-subscriber Innovative Cable TV. Tempo’s North American bow is expected in 2006.

“It’s a way of life, the joie de vivre of the Caribbean,” said Frederick Morton, the MTVN executive who proposed and has spearheaded Tempo. “The audience is of course, the core Caribbean audience, but it’s also everyone who loves things Caribbean.

“There’s a lot of affinity for it. Folks love the spices, folks love the music, they love the vibe generally, so we believe the appeal will be quite broad.”

Tempo, with Cable & Wireless plc as a charter sponsor, will air a mix of original and acquired programming, including series, specials, movies, documentaries and sporting events. Shows will come from MTVN’s library and local Caribbean networks.

Tempo has forged a creative partnership with recording artist Wyclef Jean, who will develop programming for it.

Morton, who joined MTVN as senior vice president and deputy general counsel some 30 months ago, grew up in St. Croix and his family is from Nevis.

“I’m a native of the Caribbean, first of all, so the culture is something that I really understand,” he said. “It struck me that the demographic was one that the company would be interested in. It’s just a vibrant demographic with an extraordinarily rich culture, and as a music company, we know that the music that comes from that region is extraordinary.”

Morton proposed the network to Viacom Inc. co-president Tom Freston, who was then MTVN’s chairman. “He’s a guy who’s got a world view, a global perspective, and he’s spent some time in the Caribbean, loves the Caribbean.”

Even though the Caribbean spans a variety of areas, Morton said there’s a common cultural thread. “Regardless of where you’re from in the Caribbean, whether it’s the French-speaking, English-speaking, Spanish-speaking, Dutch-speaking, there is this thing called the Caribbean identity, because we have more in common than we have in differences,” he said.

Tempo’s announcement coincided with the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s “Caribbean Week 2005” and a special concert in New York City.