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Fast Track - Broadcasting & Cable

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MTV Makes Bilingual Music

Spanish-language network adds English to the mix

After quietly acquiring a tiny broadcast network and cluster of small TV stations, MTV is expected to unveil plans to combine two Spanish-language music-video networks into one and add English to the mix.

Industry executives familiar with the venture say the new bilingual channel—MTV has yet to reveal the name—will target third- and fourth-generation Latinos and feature VJs speaking English. Scheduled to launch in third quarter, the new channel will replace MTV's existing Spanish-language cable network MTV en Español, as well as Mas Musica, a small broadcast network that MTV parent Viacom bought in Jan. 30. Broadcasting is a departure for MTV, but it's a necessary strategy because cable and DBS (direct broadcast satellite) penetration is relatively low in Hispanic homes.

In December, Viacom completed the purchase of Mas Musica and 10 television stations in California and Texas from Miami-based Caballero Television. Mas Musica launched in 1998, with music videos aimed at 18- to 34-year-old U.S. Hispanics.

The stations, all low-power and Class-A outlets, are located in some of the top Hispanic markets. In California, Viacom acquired KMMC San Francisco, KMMD Salinas, KMMA San Luis Obispo, KMMW Stockton, KUMU Sacramento, KVVM Santa Barbara, and KZMM Fresno. The lone Texas outlet is KGMM San Antonio.

MTV's top priority is securing a strong outlet in Los Angeles. The company has an array of weak stations interested in becoming affiliates but is holding out for a full-power outlet.

The move is part of MTV's attempt to exploit ethnic niches. Last year, MTV launched networks aimed at Indian (MTV Desi), Korean (MTV K) and Chinese (MTV Chi) audiences.

The cable programmer has made stabs at tapping the Hispanic market for years, first importing one of its Latin American channels and more recently producing MTV en Espanol as a Spanish network tailored to U.S. markets.

Discovery Kids Remakes Lineup

After announcing last week that it will disband its programming partnership with NBC, Discovery Kids is focusing with renewed vigor on developing shows for its own network.

The Discovery-owned cable channel is developing a crop of new shows for the fall and toying with new scheduling options now that it is not obliged to premiere shows on NBC.

Discovery Kids, distributed to about 45 million homes, is developing at least 20 new shows for the fall and winter, sticking to the science-based genre in which it specializes.

Included in the mix are half-hour animated shows Growing Up Creepie, about a middle school girl raised by bugs; half-hour animated Grossology, about a pair of kids who investigate situations too vile for adults to handle; and live-action/CGI series Dinosapien, about tweens who befriend a dinosaur. Discovery Kids will also debut episodes of returning series Endurance and Tutenstein.

The network, which expects that it will become rated by Nielsen by the end of 2007, has programmed NBC's Saturday-morning kids block since 2002.

The two networks announced in March that they had mutually agreed to not renew their contract for Discovery Kids on NBC when it comes due in September.

Says Discovery Kids Executive VP and General Manager Marjorie Kaplan, “Getting on NBC allowed us to leapfrog ourselves to another level. It was a really exciting opportunity, but strategically, we have different things we're trying to accomplish, and it made much more sense from our perspective to focus on our own real estate.”

Discovery Kids will likely strip its new shows, targeted to kids 6-11, something it hasn't done under the NBC partnership, which required a percentage of new Discovery Kids' shows to premiere in the Saturday-morning block on NBC.

Creepie, for example, will debut in the fall on Discovery Kids, but the network will tease it with a programming stunt this summer, as well as with exclusive content online.

—Anne Becker

Mobile Marketers To Help Track Ads

The Mobile Marketing Association plans to help advertisers better-track and measure ads on cellphones and other wireless devices.

A day after the Association of National Advertisers said that, for the third year in a row, their chief concern was tracking and measuring the effectiveness of ads in a fragmenting delivery environment, the MMA said it would create a Mobile Video & Television Committee charged with setting industry standards for advertising, including “determining effectiveness measurability.”

—John Eggerton

TV Group: Viewers Don't Like FCC

Only 12% of the public says the government should decide what's appropriate TV, according to a study from TV network-funded TV Watch.

The group said that 78% “should be able to choose for themselves what they watch in their own homes,” while 12% said that “it's time for the FCC to penalize the networks and increase government control and enforcement” because “broadcast television and radio have gone too far.”

For too long, activists have gone unchallenged as they pressure the government to control broadcast-television content, even though their idea of control has very little public support, said TV Watch Executive Director Jim Dyke.

The poll by Russell Research was a telephone survey of 501 people. TV Watch is backed by all the Big Four nets except ABC, as well as various other groups, and promotes parental control.

—J.E.

CW, My Network TV Gain More Affils

The CW and My Network TV both made significant inroads in distribution last week, nabbing affiliates in small and midsize markets.

Thirty new stations signed on to carry The CW next fall, bringing the network's total distribution to 111 stations covering 74% of the country. The latest deals included several Media General and Raycom Media-owned affiliates.

The CW sealed up two top 50 markets: Media General's WASV Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C.-Asheville, N.C.-Anderson, S.C. (market No. 35) and KBEJ San Antonio, operated by Belo Corp (No. 37).

For its part, Fox's My Network TV inked 31 new affiliates, bringing its distribution to 96 stations covering 63% of the country.

The network's newest batch of affiliates includes 13 Gray Television stations, two Nexstar Broadcasting-owned outlets and four Equity Broadcasting affiliates.

The largest-market stations that are included in the deals are KAIL Fresno-Visalia, Calif., owned by Trans-America Broadcasting; KWBF Little Rock, Ark., an Equity Broadcasting station; and WVLT Knoxville, Tenn., a Gray Television digital station.

To secure carriage in mid-sized and smaller markets, both The CW and My Network TV have been signing up digital affiliates.

Under these deals, the networks will be carried on the secondary digital channel of a Big Four affiliate, and, in most markets, also have full cable carriage.

Nineteen digital affiliates are included in The CW's recent deals, while My Network TV announced 15 new digital station deals. Both My Network TV and The CW, co-owned by CBS and Time Warner, are slated to launch Sept. 5.—A.R.

CBS' New Saturday Morning

CBS and DIC Entertainment unveiled the programming slate for the new three-hour Saturday Morning Secret Slumber Party kids block that will premiere Sept. 16. The shows are billed as E/I-(educational/informational) compliant, which means they fulfill stations' weekly three-hour minimum of FCC-friendly kids programs.

The block will be made up of three new animated series and three more from the DIC library, as well as two new live-action shows.

The two new live-action, reality-based series currently in pre-production are Cake (about a young girl who hosts a Martha Stewart-like TV show) and Dance, Dance, Dance! (an instructional dance show with a competition format).

New animated series include Horseland, Kooky Kitchen and Littlest Pet Shoppe. The block will target children ages 6-12, and each of the new series will broadcast 26 episodes per year.

The block will also include both animated and live-action interstitials that will promote healthy eating and active lifestyles for kids.

—Ben Grossman

NFL Sidelines Local Cameras

The National Football League's decision to bar local camera crews from its sidelines is drawing protest from industry groups.

The league's 32 team owners voted to ban station photojournalists, who have been allowed to shoot during the games.

The NFL told the National Press Photographers Association that the move is to protect exclusive NFL video from unauthorized use on the Internet. The league, however, is notoriously tight-fisted about controlling its image, and limiting the sources of video also allows it to control post-game interviews and any antics that take place during games.

The Radio and Television News Directors Association is urging the league to reconsider in the name of free press. “The National Football League should not be in a position of subverting the American tradition of free press,” RTNDA President Barbara Cochran said in a letter to NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who called the ban a “discriminatory and unprecedented policy.” The ban, she says, undercuts stations' abilities to serve their local communities.

Several station managers say they'd been hearing rumblings for the last several seasons that the NFL would limit access. The new rule means affiliates will have to get video footage from network feeds or directly from the NFL, which shoots most games for its NFL Films archives.

However, it appears that local reporters will still have some access at games.—A.R.

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