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Lifestyle programming

At the NCTA convention in May ,
Allan Singer, senior vice president, programming, for AT&T Broadband, told attendees that one of cable's biggest needs was programming geared to the growing Latino audience. What he didn't know was that E.W. Scripps Co. was already on the case.

Headed by Kristen Jordan, vice president, international, for the Scripps Networks, a development team is creating a Spanish-language cable network for the U.S. market. No launch date has been set, Jordan said, but the development process is well under way. "Know that, as a company," she declared, "we are very committed to this idea."

Scripps, of course, has had a lot success creating "how-to" networks HGTV, The Food Network, DIY (Do it Yourself) and most recently Fine Living.

In many ways, the new Spanish-language service will embrace the model of the other Scripps Networks, said Jordan. "The concept is to develop a network that will provide useful lifestyle information to enrich the lives of Latino viewers in the U.S." Focus- group research, she added, has shown there is a "very large need" for such programming.

The company hasn't started marketing the service to cable operators yet, but executives there believe that there is clearly demand. The key will be to penetrate the top 10 markets, where, Jordan says, 50% of the U.S. Hispanic market resides; 75% resides within the top 20 markets.

The sales staff has polled advertisers, and they like the idea. "They're clamoring for it," says Jordan. "The response from advertisers has been very positive. Of course, they are as aware as we are of the growing buying power of the Latino market. It's already enormous and will be growing in the future. There is not an advertiser in the country that hasn't woken up to that reality."

Jordan stressed that the new Latino network won't be just re-dubbed and repurposed programming from the existing Scripps Networks. In fact, she said, that won't be the case at all. The programming will be original, and much of it will be produced by outside companies with the expertise in the language and the Hispanic culture. "It is more important that these shows be produced from a Latino perspective," she said, "and that is our plan."

Indeed, while many categories of programming seen in the company's English-language channels will be adapted to the Spanish-language channel, there will also be new genres of programming that the focus groups have revealed are of particular interest to Hispanics. Jordan wouldn't elaborate, but it's clear that she's not talking about novelas, or any "entertainment" programming for that matter. The Hispanic network will remain true to the Scripps "how-to" mission. "It's about information to enrich your lifestyle, information presented in an entertaining way."

One of the plusses of that approach is that it's a niche Scripps can call its own. Existing Hispanic networks focus on entertainment, sports and news. "I don't see any overlap," said Jordan, with the possible exception of an isolated lifestyle segment.

"We were the first to claim lifestyle programming as our own. There really is no other dedicated source that serves the Latino community, and, at the same time, there's an enormous need for that kind of programming."