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Internet Video

Networks Bolster Fare For Multiple Platforms

5/12/2006 8:00 PM Eastern

As more Hispanic viewers adopt the latest technologies, networks increasingly extend content to new platforms, particularly video on demand.

“The Hispanic population is adapting to technology significantly faster than the general Anglo population,” Don Browne, president of Telemundo Networks, said. “They are very comfortable with handheld devices, [and] I think that is a huge upside for us.”

Sorpresa, the Spanish-language children’s network owned and operated by Firestone Communications Inc., is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to new distribution technologies.

The network’s programming is available on Internet Protocol television provider Akimbo Systems Inc., via on-demand through Comcast Corp., on mobile phones through Sprint Nextel Corp. and on Google Video for sale by the download. And it is in negotiations to be distributed through additional platforms.

“We are using these platforms to get more eyeballs and more advertising and generate more revenue for programming,” Firestone executive vice president Christopher Firestone said. “Our audience [consists of] early adopters. New technologies are more likely to be picked up by the youth demographic we target.”

Several other Hispanic networks are experimenting with multiple platforms, and some are enjoying an enthusiastic viewer response. GolTV has had about 1 million downloads of its weekly 15-minute soccer highlights program.

But video-on-demand buys are not yet translating into additional dollars. Sellers of advertising for new platforms say they are still educating buyers to their potential, which is another way of saying no one’s buying just yet.

But new platforms hold some clear advantages. “The content is phenomenal,” Tapestry director of digital innovation Marla Skiko said, referring to Comcast’s Hispanic VOD offering. Tapestry, a division of Starcom MediaVest, is the largest multicultural media buyer in the United States.

“I think one of the advantages that VOD has is the information surrounding VOD usage that is available. Unlike network television ratings based on data from Nielsen [Media Research] off of people meters, this is actual usage,” Comcast Spotlight director of multicultural sales Phillip Woodie said. “Clients really like that part of it. They know who is going there and how long they stay, actual hard numbers.”

Skiko has yet to place a purchase order. “[We are] trying to do a lot of evangelism but it is difficult to get traction specifically for VOD because online penetration is way more of a large prospect for us and that steals thunder from VOD,” she said.

Mobile content is shaping up as an easier sell.

“[Hispanics] always have higher take rates on wireless features,” Grupo Gallegos media director Ken Deutsch said. “We just have so many opportunities with this market and technology.”

According to Forrester Research’s Hispanic American Technology Adoption Study, 62% of Hispanics own a cellular phone, 35% own a mobile phone with a camera and 26% have Web-enabled phones. The latter two are higher for Hispanics than non-Hispanics according to the same study.

Forrester analyst Tamara Barber said, “Cell phones are one way [Hispanics] can embrace new and cutting edge technology at a lower price point.”

Not surprisingly, wireless providers are heavy advertisers on Hispanic media.

Sprint Nextel Corp. recently launched a Hispanic video service for subscribers including material from Sorpresa and other cable networks. In April, Verizon Wireless announced a deal with Univision to download clips from the 2002 World Cup and highlights from this summer’s soccer competition. Verizon Wireless spokesperson Brenda Boyd Raney made clear additional content deals with Univision are in the pipeline.

Hispanic broadcast and cable networks are also using streaming media on their own Internet sites to reach additional viewers. Telemundo offers highlights of its telenovelas, and GolTV will soon transmit entire soccer matches.

“We currently have more rights to matches than we have airtime. Every week it is a grueling process to decide which games we air,” GolTV executive vice president Eileen Montalvo said. At its upfront, GolTV will be looking for a title sponsor for its games.

Fox Sports en Español provides on-demand material and has sold individual matches by the download.

“We are utilizing all those types of platforms as part of a relationship to create with a viewer,” the network’s senior vice president of ad sales Tom Maney said. “Television is the dominant medium, [but] the market is becoming agnostic to the screen, whether it is IPTV, broadband, wireless.”

Still, there are some skeptics. “Everybody has come in with VOD, wireless and 360-degree marketing. Blah, blah, blah,” said one Hispanic agency media buyer who requested anonymity. “They don’t really know what it is, don’t know how to sell it, don’t want to sell it. These are TV people.”

September