Two of the four minority-owned channels that Comcast will be rolling out from now and until 2014 are going to be programmed –and targeted- to U.S. Latinos. And both, El Rey Network and BabyFirst Americas are mostly targeting the U.S.-born, acculturated, second –and third- generation Hispanics. “While there are many programming options in Spanish for Spanish-dominant Latinos, there is really not much when it comes to the English-dominant crowd,” says Rubén Mendiola (photo), VP and general manager of multicultural video services for Comcast, the nation’s largest MSO and one that offers up to 70 Latino-targeted channels, mostly in Spanish.
Overall, Comcast is expected to launch at least 10 new independent channels over the next eight years, a commitment the MSO made in connection with its deal to gain control of NBCUniversal. The first of these channels to join the Comcast lineup is BabyFirst Americas, a Los Angeles-based company partly owned by Constantino “Said” Schwarz, a TV executive who has previously worked for Disney and Turner Broadcasting.
While BabyFirst Americas has a strategic partnership with BabyFirst TV, it operates as a totally separate company, explains Mario Solis-Marich, VP of programming of BabyFirst Americas, which will make its debut on April 1st. And while the channel will be brand new to the U.S., BabyFirst Americas has a small footprint in Latin America, already reaching over 3 million households in the region. BabyFirst Americas targets children ages 0-4 and it will be mostly programmed in English.
The channel, explains Solis-Marich, will feature some existing shows, but it is also working with Hispanic producers to create original shows. One of them is SuperCarlos, featuring a child superhero that presents everyday vocabulary and healthy eating habits.
The second Hispanic-owned channel in the pipeline is El Rey Network, proposed by Hollywood director Robert Rodriguez and FactoryMade Ventures executives John Fogelman and Cristina Patwa. El Rey Network, which is expected to launch in January 2014, will also be programmed entirely in English.
Comcast’s Mendiola declines to comment on to the timing –and content- of the remaining six channels Comcast has yet to launch as part of its diversity mandate. However, he insists the MSO is still open to proposals and even hinted to the possibility of going beyond only 10 channels. “Our mandate was to add 10 [minority-owned channels] but that doesn’t mean we can keep adding more,” says Mendiola. “We saw some really amazing proposals and we are open to receive more.”
Of the 100 or so proposals received, Mendiola says 80% were programming services targeted to the African- American community and the rest targeted Hispanics.