David Jensen is on a mission. As vice president of content
acquisition for Comcast, the longtime cable executive is determined to increase
cable's share of the so-called ethnic market, especially the fast-growing
Hispanic one. To this end, Comcast has aggressively beefed up its
Spanish-language programming tier CableLatino, adding new channels, offering a
limited triple-play package for less than $80 a month and a growing library of VOD
hours targeted to Hispanic audiences. Jensen spoke with Hispanic TV Update
about Comcast's plan to boost its multicultural offer and why he thinks now
cable is better positioned to compete with satellite providers. An edited
Q: You said recently
that historically, cable hadn't done a very good job targeting multicultural
audiences in the U.S. Why is that?
A: Cable has
always targeted the multicultural space, but there hasn't always been a lot of
programming available. When I started in cable [in the early '90s] there was a
little bit of Spanish, some Filipino programming and a few European services.
Then Dish [Network] came along and decided that it was an area where satellite
had an advantage, because they could reach the whole country with their DBS
platform. At the time, the cable guys were working on expanding bandwidth.
Fast-forward to today, and there is yet another technology
change coming, which will allow us to convert all of our analog channels into
digital channels and become much more competitive in the ethnic market. This
year and the next, you're going to see a lot more launches [in this space].
Q: What about
A: While at [Tele-Communications
Inc.], I tried to create a Spanish-language product using digital bandwidth,
but there wasn't much around. I went to CNN en EspaÃ±ol and proposed that they
distribute their signal in the U.S.
and at first they didn't want to. At the time, they wanted to keep their focus
on Latin America and thought [coming to the U.S.]
wasn't worth it.
Look where we are now. It's just a different world! There
are 60 or 70 great Spanish-language channels available in the U.S.
and for the first time the cable bandwidth exists today to deliver it. Those
two things (content and bandwidth availability) have combined to create a real
inflection point for cable that is very exciting.
Q: When it comes to
multicultural offerings, what's the magic number? How many channels do you want
A: I think
Comcast has the most ambitious multicultural intention of any other
distributor. We want to deliver 90 channels of ethnic television to all of our
systems nationwide: 60 in Spanish and 30 non-Spanish. That's the goal.
We want to be able to deliver those 90 channels nationwide.
We think we can have that package of ethnic in front of a third of our
customers in 2009, and all of them by 2010.
Q: How does that
compare with the satellite guys?
A: In Chicago,
Boston and Houston,
we have a very big Spanish package available to customers that is much better
than [what] Dish and DirecTV have. We have a Spanish-language video package
that is twice as big; it's priced more or less the same [than satellite] and we
can add to it all of the other products that only cable can deliver like
telephone, Internet, low-cost international calling and VOD.
Q: Does the
triple-play offer help Comcast gain Hispanic customers?
A: The adoption
rate is higher in the Hispanic segment because the Hispanic shopper is more
[of] a value shopper than the general market. And that is one of the advantages
of cable: Our proposition is based on value. We think we can put together a
much more valuable offer that starts with a strong video package and then
services around it. We can offer a limited triple-play package of 60
Spanish-language channels, economy telephone and economy high-speed Internet
for less than $80 a month. And you also get free VOD.
It's a perfect combination for this market.
Q: Do you think
Hispanic audiences are really getting the message?
A: Your marketing
has to be very precise to reach the right people with the right message and
that is something cable hasn't been very good at. Why? Because we didn't have a
powerful video offering to justify [the spend.] We didn't have an offer that
was competitive with DBS until now ... but now you'll start to see some very
powerful marketing coming from the cable industry.
Q: Are you going to
be spending more? In a year like this?
A: [Hispanic ad
shop] Grupo Gallegos has helped us sharpen our marketing in this area. We're
going to be spending [in 2009] five or six times what we spent on Hispanic
advertising last year.
Also, we made a commitment to make a major advertising buy
from Univision as part of our multiyear retransmission-consent deal, so we're
going to be spending a lot of money and talking a lot about our Hispanic
product. We'll use radio and the Internet heavily along with other Univision
Q: Is there any
programming you don't have - yet - but want to pursue?
A: I think 60
channels is a very big offering and we've got enough volume to do what we want.
There are always new channels that are worth looking into. In fact, we just
completed an agreement with TuTv [the Univision-Televisa joint venture] to
launch their five channels nationwide next month.
Q: What about VOD?
A: Another thing
we're very excited about and something that cable can do and not the satellite
guys is VOD. One of the dirty little secrets
about the business is that there is a really bad churn off of the ethnic
product (and it's true for everybody, satellite and cable). But VOD
changed all that. Cable has been able to stop to its churn with VOD
in the general market.
We hadn't been able to do that in the Hispanic market
because there wasn't much there. Currently we offer 140 hours [of VOD
programming] to the Hispanic market, compared to 10,000 hours in the general market.
But we should be doing much more ... and we will. Starting in July, we will begin
offering Univision's VOD services to our
subscribers. Overall, our plan is to have 500 hours of Hispanic VOD
by the end of 2009. And 1,000 hours of VOD
Q: Will you be ready
then to take on DBS?
A: The satellite guys had a pretty open field for
10 years, but that day is over.