Q&A: AlternaTV’s Clemente Cabello

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Earlier this year, AlternaTV executives went to NATPE with an innovative offer to U.S.-based broadcasters: the possibility to purchase blocks of time, rather than specific shows, from the Latin American channels it distributes. To do so, the Mexico City-based distributor has launched a new business unit, AlternaTV Select, which offers broadcasters the ability to customize their own Spanish-language lineups to meet the specific needs of their target demographic. Hispanic TV Update spoke to AlternaTV executive director Clemente Cabello about the new business unit, a la carte TV, and the opportunities created by the upcoming digital switch in the U.S. An edited transcript follows:

Q: Last time we spoke, AlternaTV had acquired a hunting license from Time Warner. What has happened since?

A: Since we signed the contract [with Time Warner] last October, we have been busy talking to TW systems in the major Hispanic markets, specifically Texas and Los Angeles, presenting the value of our channels to those markets. The interest from distributors in these markets has been huge. Time Warner in December launched Canal Once, Canal 22 and CB Televisión [a channel from the state of Michoacán], making these channels available throughout Los Angeles.

Q: AlternaTV has launched a new business unit, AlternaTV Select. What is it exactly and how does it work?

A: We officially launched AlternaTV Select a few weeks ago at NATPE. This is a syndication model in which we sell to broadcasters that target Hispanics individual programs from the AlternaTV channels. The concept is rather original. It’s kind of a subscription service whereby broadcasters that need programming pay a monthly fee depending on the number of hours of programming that they want to buy and they have access to the whole AlternaTV programming catalog.

Q: How do you price this service?

A: The concept is simple: the idea is to offer low prices and secure big volume. There are certain standards in the industry, which we use as guidelines. I would say these go between $50 and $100 per hour; it’s really very inexpensive but you make up for those low prices in volume.

In addition, we have access not only to all the programming of our channels, but from independent producers. We have a fairly large programming catalog so any broadcasting stations can select what programming works for them and their target. Through AlternaTV Select they are able to choose content from regions throughout Mexico and South America as well as a wide variety of programming genres.

We have been gladly impressed by the response, and are close to announce our first AlternaTV Select soon.

Q: Was AlternaTV Select modeled after an existing distribution scheme?

A: [The AlternaTV Select] model as a whole I haven’t seen in the Hispanic market. It is the same model that we have with distribution in paid television; we share the revenues with the programmer. Whatever we get we pay we pay a share to the programmer. The price varies by genre; there are genres that are more expensive like sports. And also it varies by the specific market where the broadcaster is based.

Q: Which genres do you think will have the largest demand?

A: We have seen a lot of interest in our telenovelas, which are coming from South America. Our channel AyM Sports also has a lot of material of interest, including wrestling, second-division soccer and baseball.

Q: How do you think the digital transition will impact AlternaTV?

A: Our view is that when the digital transition takes place there will be a lot more bandwidth available and therefore more demand for good quality, relevant programming [for Hispanics].

So products like a la carte TV, such as AlternaTV Select, will be of huge value to all the stations that will have space for one, two or three additional channels. They will be needing programming, but producing original content for those additional channels could be economically unfeasible, so what better than to have a cost-effective programming offer?

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