Comcast Launching Two New Hispanic Networks

Comcast, which agreed to launch a series of independent and minority-owned networks to get its acquisition of NBCUniversal approved, said it will be distributing Hispanic-oriented Primo TV and Kids Central when they go on the air in January.

With Comcast’s backing, the new networks will try to get other cable operators to carry them. Comcast will pay an undisclosed sub fee to the networks. A precise number for how many homes will get the channels was unavailable.

Kids Central, an English-language network aimed at bicultural Hispanic viewers ages 3-7, is owned by Condista Networks. In primetime, the network will have a block of programming aimed at families. Kids Central will provide both English and Spanish-language video on demand content.

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Primo TV is an English-language network designed to appeal to bicultural Hispanic viewers ages 6 to 16. It is owned by V-Me Media, which already programs networks including V-Me and V-Me Kids. Programming will feature animated shows, adventure programming and series emphasizing science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

Burke Berendes, partner at Condista, which has helped launch a number of Spanish language cable networks noted that it is increasingly difficult to start an independent channel. “If Comcast hadn’t made the commitment to launch an independently owned network, it wouldn’t get launched,” he said. “The barriers to entry are way too high.”

He said Kids Central will access award-winning and high-rated programming from around the world and that with animation, it is relatively easy to dub the dialog into English or Spanish.

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Berendes said Condista has already started talking to other distributors—both traditional and digital over-the-top players—about carrying Kids Central.

“Now the network will be in front of customers. Now we can talk to other distributors about how the network is resonating with the audience, rather than an idea and a power point,” he said.

Similarly, Victor Cerda, senior VP at V-Me Media, said with formal notice that Comcast was carrying Primo TV, “it gives us a lot more leverage to have these conversations” with other distributors.

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Primo TV will be in English because at age 6 through 16, Latinos in the U.S. start speaking Spanish predominantly, he said.

The network will feature some original productions that aim to be entertaining, while being STEM focused. “It’s going to have a lot of Hispanic feel throughout, particularly with our original programming and our hosted segments,” Cerda said. “We’re hoping [viewers] can look up at the screen and see themselves and get some inspiration out of it while also getting some entertainment.”

The network is collaborating on programming with Highlights magazine.

Primo TV will also have acquired programming in both the fiction and non-fiction genres. One show it will introduce to the U.S. is the Matt Hatter Chronicles from the U.K., which is popular in India.

Javier Garcia, senior VP and general manager for multicultural services at Comcast Cable, said that when the cable company was picking networks, it had a clear set of criteria in addition to the mandate that they be independent and minority owned.

Those included the content the network would air, the financial projections for the channel, and the expertise and experience of the people running the network. “We also look at the potential for carriage outside of Comcast,” Garcia said.

These networks also stood out because there was “a white space on educational content that resonated with kids after school at 3 to 7 years old and 7 to 15,”  he said. “They understood the needs of Hispanics, they were very focused on education and family and give us the opportunity to have content in Spanish and English,. That was a good opportunity for us.”

Comcast is still looking for networks at launch to fulfill its mandate.

“The next wave is African-American networks, which we are going to be looking at early next year or later this year," Garcia said

In 2011, one of the commitments Comcast made in connection with the NBCU deals was to launch 10 independently owned and operated networks by 2019, with eight being minority owned. Five networks have already been launched: El Rey, BabyFirst Americas, Revolt, Aspire and BBC World News.

The combination of Comcast and NBCU has been criticized by President-elect Donald Trump as creating a company with too much power. He’s similarly criticized the proposed acquisition of Time Warner by AT&T.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.