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VOY Stakes Claim to 'Acculturated' Hispanics

2/22/2004 7:00 PM Eastern

While Sí TV next week is set to enter the arena currently occupied by mun2 and LATV, VOY Network LLC is preparing to take its stab at reaching the growing base of English-speaking and acculturated U.S. Hispanic households this summer.

VOY Network, mixing lifestyle, pop culture and community programming, aimed principally at adults 18 to 49, is scheduled to debut July 19, according to Andrew Thau, president and CEO.

Thau said the new generation of Latino viewers, those who have grown up in this country and are well-versed in English, does not have a voice in today's TV community.

"This market is very underserved by both mainstream and Spanish-language television, most of which originates from Latinos' country of origin," Thau said. "We're looking to build a network that reaches this rapidly expanding group, one that is valuable to both distributors and advertisers."

A TV veteran who was senior vice president of operations and network development at Fox Cable Networks, before joining VOY last August, Thau said the service has been speaking to MSOs and satellite distributors and is seeking digital distribution on the most fully penetrated, not Latino, tiers. Thau said VOY would also work toward developing programming for video-on-demand platforms.

He declined to specify rate-card terms, noting the network would be flexible "to meet our financial goals and operator needs."

The network's executive management team includes Lucia Ballas-Traynor, the former general manager of Galavision, who will lead programming; and Jon Dubin, who will head ad sales. Dubin's TV experience includes stints at Univision, Fox Sports World Espanol and local stations. Cathy Rasenberger, former senior vice president of affiliate sales and marketing for Food Network, is handling distribution efforts through her consultancy Rasenberger Media.

Original programming, reflecting Hispanics with star quality and others who would attain their own high profile, would constitute the "majority" of VOY's fare at launch. He wouldn't identify any development deals or specific shows.

Thau said the programming would not only target Latinos who speak English, but have a crossover appeal to the mainstream TV audiences, particularly in urban settings.

From an advertising perspective, Thau said VOY is open to product integration, show sponsorship and program underwriting, in addition to the inclusion of traditional 30-second units.

The network is owned by VOY LLC, a media company that also includes music, publishing and TV production units. VOY Pictures, the company's feature film division, recently announced deals with Michelle Rodrigues and Freddie Prince Jr. and Hispanic producers, writers and directors, en route to what its expects will be the production of 12 to 15 films over the next three years.

Thau said the network hopes to work with top-notch talent in developing projects for the small screen.

September