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LATV's Multicast Strategy

An exploding U.S.-born Hispanic population has led to a burgeoning industry of English-language and bilingual television networks geared to Latinos. LATV, a Los Angeles-based bilingual station that predates most of its competitors, recently took a major step toward a nationwide presence by striking a deal to be carried on Post-Newsweek digital multicast stations in Miami and Orlando, Fla., Houston, and San Antonio, launching April 23. Danny Crowe, president/co-founder of LATV, recently spoke with Kevin Downey about his plans for the network.

You launched LATV well before the idea of targeting U.S.-born Hispanics caught on. What made you think this was a viable business?

I had been running a radio station [KRTO Los Angeles] that was bilingual and bicultural. We played music in English and Spanish. Walter Ulloa, my LATV co-founder, listened to our station. He suggested creating a TV channel that had the same characteristics as our station. The DJs were young. There was a certain irreverence and forward-thinking [attitude] on the air. We would play the Rolling Stones and Madonna alongside Jaguares and Maná. I brought the experience of programming to this market. Walter brought [the] full-power TV station in the L.A. market. At the time, it was revolutionary.

Did you do any research to see if the Hispanic population would watch a bilingual TV station?

Millions of young Latinos in the United States speak English and Spanish. I didn't need to do focus groups to see that in L.A., Miami, Texas, New York, San Francisco. There are 15 million 15- to 34-year-old Latinos in this country. Most of these people speak English, are learning to speak English or want to learn to speak English. Every one of these people—and even older—is potential audience for LATV.

LATV struck a deal with Post-Newsweek in January to be carried on digital multicast channels beginning next month in four markets. Does that signal the beginning of a national rollout?

About 18 months ago, we decided that the best way for LATV to become a national network was through digital broadcast, not through linear cable or satellite. We pursued affiliations with broadcast groups and stations that would allow us to have broadcast affiliates in the top 50 markets. We found there was demand for our content. It became realistic to get into 20 million homes by 2009.

Now that we have developed our strategy a little more and started to sign affiliates, we think we have the potential to be in the top 25 Hispanic markets. And we get on basic cable and satellite and over the air through the affiliates' signals.

We had been pursuing linear cable and satellite agreements with DirecTV, Dish, Comcast and Time Warner, but it was clear to us that it would be difficult to be in all the markets we now have opportunities in. We also have a great opportunity to be on many basic-cable homes in Puerto Rico, which will probably happen in May.

LATV is known for playing music videos, but the station's programming goes deeper than that. Can you explain how that programming has changed?

We had five days of live TV. That's what helped brand us. We were the first channel where 12- to 24-year-olds saw themselves on the screen. The original objective of LATV was to create a music, lifestyle and information network that would be created by and for young Latinos. We do segments that bring the reality of Hispanic life in the 21st century to the screen. Our objective has not changed. But we are now clearer about what we want to do. Since we started, mun2 launched, Sí TV launched, and MTV Tr3s launched. It's clear other people are recognizing that this is a market that needs to be addressed.

Will the network and its programming change as it rolls out into new markets?

You'll see a live program every day. Our primetime, between 4 and 8 p.m., will be all new programming. It will be interactive, meaning we'll be talking to people on-air in the studio, through telephone, Internet and text messages. We will have significantly more non-music programs, where we will discuss issues and people that are of interest to our audience. We are working on scripted programs as well. And it's a 24-hour signal, so it's a 24/7 channel.