The U.S. Latino population is expanding, and so is the roster of companies approaching cable operators with channel assortments to serve it.
Satellits Mexicanos S.A., a leading DBS satellite owner for Latin American programmers, acknowledges that it's attempting to swim in an already crowded digital-cable pond. But it's poised to launch Satmex Maximo, a nine-channel collection of its own, anyway.
Satmex executives anticipate they'll pick up their first deal for Maximo at the National Show in Chicago, where the company will have booth space. Clearances will be handled through Castalia Communications, Satmex's Atlanta-based U.S. distribution partner.
Its presence in Chicago comes six months after Satmex surfaced at the Western Show.
Executive vice president of sales and marketing Juan Pinedo said subsequent operator feedback indicates "a need to aggregate original programming from Latin America, and provide a high-quality standard of content that will make a big difference for subscribers. We're very encouraged by the MSO conversations."
Maximo is formatted to be complementary to other programmers taking aim at Latino audiences, including offerings from such companies as Univision Communications Inc., OlympuSat, International Channel's Canales ñ and Condista.
Six of the nine Maximo channels originate from Mexico, including Canal 22, which specializes in music, documentaries and cultural specials; Once TV, featuring family entertainment; and education-focused CB Television.
The others: Telecentro from the Caribbean; Ecuavisa from Ecuador; and Uruguay-based LATV, a music-video-centered service that has been reaching more than 4 million Los Angeles-area households for more than two years.
All program 24 hours a day. Satmex will use the satellite transponder and transmission facilities of Crawford Communications, another Atlanta firm, for cable distribution.
The channels offer subscribers a way to reconnect with their Hispanic roots through programming from their homelands.
"We're offering the umbilical cord," said Castalia president Luis Torres-Bohl. "This is about bringing more local, as in home country, flavor to the table. The news, information and entertainment from a particular country, or certain part of the country, are relevant to people."
Castalia already has prepared cross-channel spots and other marketing materials for cable affiliates.
Pinedo estimated that Satmex Maximo will break even when its package reaches about 4 million digital-cable homes. Down the road, the package would include U.S.-based Latino services and expand to at least 14 to 15 channels.