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Comcast's Latino Tiers Score 'Optimo' Result

Buoyed by returns from its spring initiative, Comcast Corp.'s cable unit is poised to make another promotional push behind Spanish-language digital packages.

The MSO is set to drive business for digital tiers CableLatino, CableLatino Optimo and CableLatino Completo, beginning next month.

The upcoming salvo follows one launched in May that made packages available in nine of the 10 largest Hispanic communities and has resulted in a one-third jump in Latino customer penetration. Comcast officials, who would not provide specifics, also said that in some cities, penetration has grown 5% or more.

Some 3 million Latino households reside in Comcast's markets.

"The systems are very happy and the customers are happy as well," said Mauro Panzera, Comcast's senior director of multicultural marketing. "We knew the packages would be well-received, but everyone is surprised by the level of demand.

"We have to keep bringing more to this community so they keep connected to the TV experience that's important in their lives."

Comcast's Philadelphia-area systems, the only Latino top 10 market not involved in the initial push, will introduce CableLatino services in a few weeks. Since May, Comcast systems in Nashville, Baltimore and Portland, Ore., have also launched the tiers.

In each area, CableLatino consists of 10 Spanish-language digital services — CineLatino, CNN en Español, Discovery en Español, Fox Sports en Español, MTV en Español, VH Uno, HTV, Utilisma Satelital, Toon Disney's Spanish feed and TVE Internacional — along with local affiliates of Univision, Telemundo, Telefutura and Azteca America.

Optimo proffers 40 Music Choice audio channels, including 13 dedicated to Latin music genres. Completo combines the two, adding analog cable service, including Galavisiòn and mun2 in some areas.

New cable subscribers pay $19.95 a month for CableLatino, $29.95 for Optimo and above $29.95 for Completo. Current analog or digital-basic customers can get CableLatino for an additional $9.95 per month.

Panzera said the current pricing structure and each tier's lineup will stay in effect through late 2004. Systems, though, can elect to add more services on their own, cleared for use by Comcast's corporate team.

All-soccer channel Gol TV is among the channels getting clearance, along with services offered by independent distributors Condista and OlympuSat.

Cross-channel messages, radio, print and direct mail again will be the key features of CableLatino's next marketing push this fall. This time, though, the media effort will run for longer than a week or two at a time.

The bulk of the drive will play from Oct. 20 to Nov. 30, when people taking the tiers get an added freebie: Gloria Estefan's new CD, Unwrapped, her first in seven years (to be released Sept. 23).