New York -- Sony Pictures Entertainment took another step
last week in its move to become a force in Latin American TV programming, buying Spelling
Entertainment Group Inc.'s TeleUNO channel for between $15 million and $25 million.
SPE, a unit of Japan's Sony Corp., said it will revamp
TeleUNO's programming lineup with original programming and feature films. It will
also give TeleUNO, with 6.5 million subscribers, a new on-air look. A name change is not
The TeleUNO acquisition is SPE's latest move to become
a bigger player in Spanish-language programming. Last year, it agreed to acquire U.S.
Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo Group Inc. in partnership with Tele-Communications
Inc. and two other investors. Its Latino pay TV channels also include
general-entertainment network Sony Entertainment Television and a stake in movie channel
SPE's original Spanish-language production is
currently in the "early stages" of development, spokesman Tom Keeter said.
Some of TeleUNO's current programming will remain on
the channel after control fully passes to SPE at the end of this month. Nancy Bushkin, a
Spelling spokeswoman, said that as part of the channel acquisition, SPE assumed the
licensing rights to some Spelling library shows airing on TeleUNO, and it acquired the pay
TV rights to future episodes of popular Spelling series such as Beverly Hills 90210
and Melrose Place for the next 18 months.
The $15 million to $25 million range gives TeleUNO a
per-subscriber price tag of between $2.31 and $3.84 -- a "really good price,"
according to one analyst. However, the analyst added, the bargain reflected TeleUNO's
position as a channel with a mediocre track record.
"It never really had any 'oomph,'" the
Still, by buying existing carriage, Sony avoids the big
start-up costs that are associated with launching a channel from scratch, as well as a
fight for carriage amid a tight market.
Bushkin said Spelling sold TeleUNO because the company now
sees more potential in selling its syndicated programming to other channels in Latin
"In 1993, Latin America wasn't as developed a
market," she said. Now, with dozens of pay TV channels across the region looking for
programming, there is less of a "strategic need for TeleUNO."