Sizing Up Operator Strategies

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If 2004 was the year when many satellite and cable operators radically revised their Hispanic strategies, 2005 has generally been a period of implementing those strategies, with operators working to market and refine their offerings.

Many of the 15 largest cable and satellite operators noted in the research that follows this introduction spent 2003 and 2004 crafting lower-cost Hispanic video offerings that would make them much more competitive.

Since then, the focus has been on rolling those offerings out, tweaking the programming and heavily marketing them. As a result of those efforts, a wide variety of reasonably priced Hispanic-targeted packages are available in the largest Hispanic markets, producing a much more competitive landscape.

Revamped marketing campaigns and packages have generally paid off in rapid subscriber growth, particularly for operators like DirecTV, Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications.

To maintain that growth and to strengthen their competitive position, cable operators, particularly Comcast, are increasing Spanish-language video-on-demand offerings and adding Spanish-language content on their high-speed data portals. A growing number of operators are also bundling free or low-cost long-distance plans to Latin America with their phone and video services.

Still, much work needs to be done. As the research shows, a number of cable operators still require Hispanic customers to buy up through the digital tier before reaching much of the Spanish-language programming. And, many operators have yet to roll out their lower-cost offerings in markets where the Hispanic population is relatively small. As a result, Dish and DirecTV satellite providers remain far head of cable operators in sub counts for Hispanic packages.

Some caveats concerning the survey are in order. Pricing and channel lineups vary from system to system. Some operators declined to discuss pricing or exact channel lineups. What's more, programming packages listed represent only a selection of the operators' offerings – usually the least expensive. The overall subscriber data listed below is generally from the second quarter of 2005. RCN currently does not provide subscriber figures, only revenue generating units (RGU). Descriptions of packages are as of Oct. 1, 2005.

Comcast Corp.

Basic Subscribers: 21.4 million

Digital Subscribers: 9.1 million

High-Speed Internet Subscribers: 7.7 million

Contacts: David Jensen, vice president of international programming; Mauro Panzera, senior director of multicultural marketing. (215) 665-1700.

Hispanic Programming Packages (Least Expensive): CableLatino (up to 20 Spanish-language channels, limited basic channels, digital set-top box and, where available, video on demand in Spanish for $20 to $25). Corporate has signed deals with 50-plus programmers. Systems customize local lineups.

Spanish VOD, High-Speed Data and Bundles: Offers over 100 hours of free Spanish-language VOD in addition to the Spanish-language Secondary Audio Program feeds for some pay movies; has an extensive Comcast Latino Spanish-language Web site for high-speed data subscribers; on a local level, some discounted bundles specifically for Hispanic subscribers.

Major Hispanic Markets: Comcast passes about 32% of all U.S. Hispanic homes, making it the largest cable provider of multichannel services to the Hispanic community. Major Hispanic markets include Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas, Boston, San Francisco, Denver and Chicago.

Recent and Future Moves: After rolling out lower-cost Hispanic tiers in 2003, the company has continued to revamp offerings. In 2004, Comcast launched a Spanish Web site for its high-speed portal, announced plans to simplify Hispanic tiers and expanded free VOD offerings to over 100 hours. Over the last year, Comcast signed corporate deals with additional Hispanic channels, most recently adding Canal 52MX and WAPA America. Comcast has also inked more deals with programmers, such as Fox Sports en Español, for additional free VOD product. As the company rolls out voice-over-Internet protocol telephony, bundles featuring long-distance packages for Hispanics are planned.

DirecTV Group Inc.

Subscribers: 14.7 million

Contacts: Mark Ryan, VP of marketing, Para Todos; Javier Prelooker, director, Para Todos.

Hispanic Program Packages (Least Expensive): Para Todos package Opción Especial (more than 80 channels, including 26 Spanish-language networks or English-language services that offer Spanish SAP feeds, plus seven Spanish-language music channels for $29.99 a month).

Spanish VOD, HSD and Bundles: Doesn't offer VOD or HSD services. Video packages for general market and Hispanics, however, are sold and bundled with phone and DSL services by such telco partners as Verizon Communications Inc. and Qwest Communications International Inc.

Major Hispanic Markets: Has a national footprint, making it easier to justify channels targeting smaller Hispanic groups; offers local channels, including many Spanish broadcasters.

Recent and Future Moves: After months of research, DirecTV launched a lower-priced, revamped Para Todos package in February 2004. It added 11 new channels by September 2005, with several more to follow this fall. DirecTV has focused on underserved Hispanic groups, such as Puerto Ricans, and by the end of this year expects to offer a channel from every Spanish-language country in the world except Cuba. Its Latino sub base has jumped from 347,000 in January 2004 to about 850,000 in early September.

Time Warner Cable

Basic Subscribers: 10.9 million

Digital Subscribers: 5.1 million

High-Speed Internet Subscribers: 4.5 million

Phone Subscribers: 614,000

Contact: Maida Chicon, director of multicultural marketing. (203) 351-2275 or maida.chicon@twcable.com

Hispanic Programming Packages: Brands used for Hispanic tiers and prices vary by division. Nuestra Tele is the most common brand, priced as low as $29.95 (local Spanish language broadcast networks, local basic English language broadcast stations, thematic Hispanic channels, digital box and access to VOD).

Spanish VOD, HSD and Bundles: Some divisions have rolled out Spanish-language VOD content in addition to the SAP feeds in Spanish available for many pay-per-view movies. Both the Roadrunner and AOL broadband services have extensive Spanish-language pages. The decision to offer Hispanic-targeted bundles varies by division.

Major Hispanic Markets: New York, New Jersey, San Diego, the Desert cities division near San Diego, Texas, Florida and North Carolina.

Recent and Future Moves: The New York City system rolled out a low-cost DTV en Español package (now priced at $29.95) in early 2003 and a number of other systems have followed. In 2004, the company hired a director of multicultural marketing and created the Hispanic Marketing Coop, which is made up of marketing executives from a number of TWC systems with larger Hispanic populations. It also developed the Nuestra Tele offering. In the summer of 2005, the MSO announced plans to roll out a rebranded Nuestra Tele offering priced as low as $29.95 in 14 markets. Some systems are offering free-Spanish language VOD; Austin, Texas, is working to develop alliances with broadcasters to provide local Spanish-language VOD news.

EchoStar Communications Corp.

Basic Subscribers: Over 11.4 million

Hispanic Programming Packages (Least Expensive): DISH Latino (an all-Spanish language option with 25 networks and six music channels for $24.99 or $29.99 with local broadcast stations).

Contacts: Declined to name an executive and asked that all questions be routed through the press department. (720) 514-5351.

Spanish VOD, HSD and Bundles: No VOD but offers a Spanish-language PPV channel where subscribers can purchase movies for $3.99; telco partners bundle Dish's video packages with their phone and DSL offerings.

Major Hispanic Markets: National footprint; offers local broadcast stations in over 164 markets.

Recent and Future Moves: The company declined to comment on recent and future plans. Outsiders note that the Dish's Hispanic-targeted packages, which were first launched in 1998, have been the market leaders in terms of subscribers for many years and that the company maintains that position, adding subs for its Hispanic packages at a healthy rate despite much more intense competition from both DirecTV and cable operators.

Cox Communications Inc.

Basic Subscribers: 6.3 million

Digital Subscribers: 2.6 million

High-Speed Internet Subscribers: 2.8 million

Phone Subscribers: 1.5 million

Contact: César Cruz, director of multicultural marketing. (404) 843-5000.

Hispanic Programming Packages: Paquete Latino (up to 35 Spanish-language networks and 10 to 15 channels of English-language local broadcast stations and basic services for about $35); designed so local systems can customize the lineup and pricing.

Hispanic VOD, HSD and Bundles: Paquete Latino offers access to VOD services that include an En Español Category. Nine of Cox's local systems are currently buying Spanish movies via iNDEMAND, and the company tries to have culturally relevant programming for Hispanics in its PPV, free and subscription VOD offerings; in a number of markets, offers of bundles phone and video that include free long-distance minutes to 17 Latin American countries; has launched a Spanish-languish Web site.

Major Hispanic Markets: Arizona, Central Florida, Las Vegas, Southern California and West Texas, among others.

Recent and Future Moves: As part of a completely revamped Hispanic strategy, Cox launched the Paquete Latino package in September 2004, and over the last year the MSO has rolled the package out in about 20 markets. A Spanish-language Web site launched in November 2004. Recently, the company began a large Hispanic-targeted telephone marketing campaign to increase penetration of video and telephony service. The campaign features a special phone package that includes 60 free minutes of long-distance calls to 17 countries in Latin America for anyone who subscribes to a bundle of services.

Charter Communications Inc.

Basic Subscribers: 5.9 million

Digital Subscribers: 2.7 million

High-Speed Internet Subscribers: 2.0 million

Phone Subscribers: 67,800

Contact: John Figueroa, director, sales and ethnic marketing, (310) 971-4001.

Hispanic Programming Packages: Charter Latino (digital box, access to VOD where available, local broadcast channels and up to 22 Spanish-language networks for $24.99 to $29.99)

Hispanic VOD, HSD and Bundles: Currently, no free Spanish-language VOD or Spanish-language Web site, but plans to add free VOD Spanish-language programming; testing a bundle of Charter Latino video offering and a 384K high-speed data service for about $50.

Major Hispanic Markets: Los Angeles; Charleston, S.C.; Ft. Worth, Texas.

Recent and Future Plans: In August of 2004, the MSO began the soft launch of a low-cost Charter Latino tier in some markets, and over the last year it has been adding more Spanish-language programming. In the summer of 2005, it began rolling out Charter Latino in California and Reno, Nev., with other markets to follow. Executives continue to look for new programming and are working on a VOD offering. Charter may bundle video and long-distance phone plans for Hispanics as the company rolls out telephony.

Adelphia Communications Corp.

Basic Subscribers: 5.1 million

Digital Subscribers: 2 million

High-Speed Internet Subscribers: 1.6 million

Contact: Judy Meyka, senior vice president of programming. (303) 268-6300.

Hispanic Programming Packages (Least Expensive): Adelphia en Español Package (in Southern California, offers 18 Spanish-language services, the broadcast basic service of 32 to 39 broadcast stations, including at least seven Spanish stations, five to 12 Spanish-language music services, a digital box, and access to up to 50 hours a month of free Spanish VOD for about $23.50).

Hispanic VOD, HSD and Bundles: Currently offers, in Southern California, over 50 hours a month of free Spanish-language VOD; the division has launched a Spanish page on its consumer Web site; no discounted bundles specifically targeting Hispanics.

Major Hispanic Markets: Southern California as well as markets in Florida.

Recent and Future Moves: The pending sale of Adelphia's systems to Time Warner Cable and Comcast could produce some major shifts in the company's strategy and branding. Over the last year, the Southern California division, which serves more Hispanics than any other cable system in the country, has been beefing up its programming by adding more channels, particularly Mexican fare, and expanding the Spanish-language VOD product. The company has also introduced a Spanish-language bill and a discounted, very large package of TV channels and digital equipment for only $29.95 a month for the first three months. By the end of the year, the digital rebuild will allow the system to increase the number of Spanish-language channels from nine in the East San Fernando Valley and 13 in East L.A. to 18 channels in each of those two areas. Long-distance phone packages might be offered when telephony is rolled out in 2006.

Cablevision Systems Corp.

Basic Subscribers: 3 million

Digital Subscribers: Over 1.7 million

High-Speed Internet Subscribers: Over 1.5 million

Phone Subscribers: 478,357

Contacts: Valerie Green, vice president of multicultural marketing. (516) 803-2300.

Hispanic Programming Packages (Least Expensive): iO en Español (30 Spanish-language networks, 20 hours of free Spanish-language on-demand programming, and local broadcast Spanish-language channels for $14.95 when purchased with the $14.95 Broadcast Basic tier for a total entry-level package of $29.90); customers at the Family Cable level can add the iO en Español tier for $4.95; new customers who sign up for Family Cable and iO en Español receive more than 170 channels for $34.90 per month for the first year.

Hispanic VOD, HSD and Bundles: Rainbow Media's World Picks Latino On Demand service offers 20 hours of Spanish-language VOD programming a month, as well as programming from such services as MTV en Español; partnered with Planeta Networks in July 2004 to launch a Spanish-language Web portal for its Optimum Online data service; offers a wide variety of bundles for video, data and phone, but does not currently offer bundles specifically targeted to Hispanic customers; recently added Puerto Rico to the Optimum Voice flat-rate unlimited calling area.

Major Hispanic Markets: Greater New York City area

Recent and Future Plans: The Hispanic packages are currently available in the Bronx and Brooklyn in New York City, and the Newark, Paterson and Hudson County service areas in New Jersey. No date has yet been set for further rollout of the Hispanic tier.

Bright House Networks

Basic Subscribers: 2.2 million

Contacts: Steve Stiger, group vice president of marketing. 407) 210-3156.

Hispanic Programming Packages: Nuestros Canales (five to 15 Spanish-language channels and as many as five Latino music services for $2.99 to $3.95 on top of the digital package of over 300 channels that also includes local broadcasters.)

Hispanic VOD, HSD and Bundles: VOD services are widely available in the company's franchises, and offering includes some Spanish-language VOD; Road Runner and AOL high-speed data services offered on most systems have extensive Spanish-language pages for Hispanic customers.

Major Hispanic Markets: Florida.

Recent and Future Moves: The company launched a digital Hispanic tier in October 2003 and since then has been reviewing its programming, pricing and bundles. In April 2005, for example, the Central Florida division revamped its channel lineup, adding seven new Spanish-language channels and the Toon Disney SAP feed without increasing the cost of the tier, which is $2.99. At the same time it grouped all the Spanish-language services together to make them easier to find and created an Answers On Demand Espanol service that has Spanish-language videos to help customers get better use of their cable service.

Mediacom Communications Corp.

Basic Subscribers: 1.45 million

Digital Subscribers: 455,000

High-Speed Internet Subscribers: 426,000

Contacts: Italia Commisso Weinand, senior vice president of programming and human resources. (845) 695-2600.

Hispanic Programming Packages: Canales (includes nine Spanish-language channels for $5.95 and is available on the majority of systems that have been upgraded to digital); customers must pay for analog package (which generally includes some Hispanic broadcasters) and the digital box in addition to the Canales tier.

Spanish VOD, HSD and Bundles: None to date.

Major Hispanic Markets: Nogales, Ariz. (the largest), plus a number of relatively small Hispanic communities.

Recent and Future Moves: Mediacom says it is always looking to add additional ethnic programming that fits the demographics of its local systems.

Insight Communications Co.

Basic Subscribers: 1.3 million

Digital Subscribers: 460,800

High-Speed Internet Subscribers: 391,300

Phone Subscribers: 73,500

Contacts: Melani Griffith, VP, programming. (917) 286-2300.

Hispanic Programming Packages: Insight Para Tí (average of 25 channels, five English-language and 20 Spanish-language, for $9 a month.)

Hispanic VOD, HSD and Bundles: None to date.

Major Hispanic Markets: Serves some fast-growing Hispanic markets, such as Lexington Ky., but generally operates in communities with relatively small Hispanic populations.

Recent and Future Moves: The company has rolled out the Para Tí package in five areas and is now working to market it.

Cable One Inc.

Basic Subscribers: 702,800

Digital Subscribers: 219,900

High-Speed Internet Subscribers: 209,600

Contacts: Jerry McKenna, vice president of strategic marketing. (602) 364-6000.

Hispanic Programming Packages: Digital Español (a digital box, 10 Spanish-language networks, Toon Disney, which has a Spanish SAP feed, and the basic-cable tier, which includes local broadcasters, for $41.99, in about 98% of its systems; priced separately at $2.49 on top of digital packages).

Hispanic VOD, HSD and Bundles: None to date

Major Hispanic Markets: The MSO tends to serve small and mid-sized markets that do not have large Hispanic communities.

Recent and Future Moves: Cable One says it is thinking of adding some additional Hispanic-targeted programming.

Cebridge Communications

Basic Subscribers: About 400,000

Contact: Mary Meier, senior vice president, marketing. (314) 965-2020.

Hispanic Programming Packages: La Conexión Español (10 Spanish-language channels for $3.99); customers must also lease a digital box for $3.99 and get the expanded basic tier, costing $37 to $40, putting total monthly cost at about $45 to $48; some special promotions, offered for customers willing to sign a year-long contract and provide a credit card, reduce expanded basic cost to $29.95 for a total cost of under $38.

Spanish VOD, HSD and Bundles: No Spanish VOD or Spanish Web site for Internet customers; no bundles specifically targeted to Hispanics.

Major Hispanic Markets: Texas.

Recent and Future Moves: The Latino tier is primarily marketed in Cebridge's Texas systems, but the company has not indicated when it will roll that tier out to other systems.

RCN Corp.

Video (RGU): 371,363

Data (RGU): 228,961

Voice (RGU): 276,072

Contact: NA.

Hispanic Programming Packages: Canal Ñ Digital Vision (10 to 15 Spanish-language networks and up to seven music services for $9.95 to $11.95 a month); customers must subscribe to basic cable, about $42.95, and get a digital box, around $4.95, for a monthly cost of least $56.85 a month.

Spanish VOD, HSD and Bundles: Will discontinue World Picks Latino On Demand service in November; no Spanish-language Web site for data customers; video offerings can be bundled with a Hispanic International Plan that offers low-cost long-distance rates to a number of Latin American countries.

Major Hispanic Markets: New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Recent and Future Moves: RCN has rolled out the Hispanic video tier in Los Angeles; San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; Lehigh Valley, Pa.; Queens, N.Y.; and Chicago. Currently, the operator is in the process of revamping its Spanish tier and its Hispanic offerings.

Bresnan Communications

Basic Subscribers: 290,000

Digital Subscribers: 114,000

High-Speed Internet Subscribers: 85,000

Digital Phone Subscribers: 8,000

CONTACT: NA.

Hispanic Programming Packages (Least Expensive): Digital Economico (a variety of Spanish-language channels and music services, local broadcasters, a digital box and access to pay per view for about $26); Hispanic tier also sold separately for $8.

Hispanic VOD, HSD and Bundles: No VOD or Hispanic-targeted bundles; added Spanish language pages to Bresnan.net site.

Major Hispanic Markets: Tends to serve smaller and mid-sized markets, in four mountain states, that have relatively small Hispanic communities.

Recent and Future Moves: Over the last year, Bresnan has added six new channels to its Spanish Tier and replaced TVE with Canal 52MX. The company has also added Spanish-language pages to its bresnan.net site and may add more Spanish-language content to the site. While it does not currently offer bundles specifically targeting the Hispanic market, it is in the process of developing them. Flat-rate long-distance plans to Latin America could also be in the works.

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