Puerto Rican-targeted service WAPA America has launched on Comcast's Hispanic package in Denver.
WAPA America, the cable network arm of the leading broadcaster in Puerto Rico, WAPA Television, became available on Cinco De Mayo on Comcast's CableLatino offering throughout Colorado. WAPA America, which offers 30 hours of news programming and 40 hours of entertainment fare from the island, is now available on channel 617 in Comcast's Denver Metro and northern Colorado clusters and on channel 295 in Colorado Springs.
With the rollout, WAPA America is now available via cable, satellite and telco video services in the Denver area. WAPA-TV is a portfolio company of private equity firm InterMedia Partners, controlled by former cable executive Leo Hindery.
All told, WAPA America, which launched in the U.S. in 2004, now counts some 3 million subscribers nationwide through distribution pacts with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Bright House Networks, Cablevision, DirecTV, Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse, according to WAPA Television president Joe Ramos
"This is exciting news for the thousands of Puerto Rican and Caribbean viewers living in Colorado," said Bill Mosher, vice president of marketing and sales for Comcast's Colorado Region, in a statement. "Puerto Ricans comprise the second largest Hispanic group in Denver and its surrounding areas and we are proud to offer highly rated and culturally relevant programming directly from the television leader in Puerto Rico. The launch of WAPA America represents an important addition to our comprehensive offering of Spanish-language channels."
With the addition of WAPA America, Comcast is currently offering CableLatino, comprising 60 channels, 29 of which are Spanish-language, and 45 music channels, for $24.99 for six months. The usual price tag: $32.99.
Nationwide, Puerto Rican-Americans, with about 4 million, represent the second-largest U.S. Latino group behind Mexican Americans, but Ramos said the network's appeal also extends to others from the Caribbean region.
"WAPA America keeps viewers abreast of everything that is happening in Puerto Rico. That's what our viewers want," said Ramos, noting that the service also has proven to be attractive among people who originally hailed from the Dominican Republic, Cuba and other Caribbean nations.
The network places a heavy emphasis on news, with Noticentro programming running in a four-hour weekday morning block from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. (ET) It also airs a half-hour show Monday-Friday at 11 a.m., plus an hour at 5 p.m. throughout the week. At night, WAPA TV feaures a half-hour newscast at 11 p.m., Monday though Saturday, and Sundays from 10 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
WAPA America airs a weekday version of The View, Entre Nosotras (Between us Women) from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. The talker touches on issues pertinent to women and families.
The service runs lifestyle shows and novellas in the afternoon, and its primetime lineup is headed by variety and comedy hours.
WAPA America also covers the National Puerto Rico Superior Basketball League and Puerto Rico Soccer League matches. The network is also looking to add futbol action on Saturdays this June when the league kicks off its second season; it aired games on Sunday during the circuit's rookie season last year. Ramos said WAPA TV is in discussions about carrying baseball games.
The network's most popular programming remains the gossip-oriented Super Xclusivo, which it airs daily from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. The show is hosted by La Comay, a life-size puppet, and straight man, co-host Hector Travieso, whom Ramos said is constantly quoted on gossip and entertainment pages of El Diario La Presna.
Although he wouldn't specify, Ramos said WAPA America receives license fees "comparable to what broadcasters are receiving."
He said that while it was a lengthy process to establishing initial beachheads with distributors -- it took three years to conclude a Time Warner Cable pact -- affiliates have reached out to WAPA America over the past 18 months as a means to reach this growing audience base.
Ramos notes that through current distribution deals WAPA is now available on cable in the top DMAs and areas that are home to sizable Puerto Rican populations, notably New York, Orlando, Tampa, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Boston, Connecticut, Chicago, Houston, Washington DC and now Denver.
He said future growth, perhaps as much as 500,000 homes in the years ahead, will come by reaching the other 11 million Americans of Caribbean descent. To that end, Ramos said WAPA America, whose lineup also includes 10 cultural/educational shows from public broadcast station in Puerto Rico, wants to expand that base to include some similarly themed programming focusing on music and travel fare focusing on other nations in the region.
WAPA America is also looking to build its sub base via additional placements on more broadly based tiers such as its September 2008 launch on Bright House in Tampa, where it is available on Hispanic and basic digital services, and in Comcast Miami, where its part of digital basic.
"We're talking to Time Warner in New York about moving to a more basic tier in the near future," said Ramos.