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MTV Makes Bilingual Music

After quietly acquiring a tiny broadcast network and cluster of small TV stations, MTV is expected to unveil plans to combine two Spanish-language music-video networks into one and add English to the mix.

Industry executives familiar with the venture say the new bilingual channel—MTV has yet to reveal the name—will target third- and fourth-generation Latinos and feature VJs speaking English. Scheduled to launch in third quarter, the new channel will replace MTV's existing Spanish-language cable network MTV en Español, as well as Mas Musica, a small broadcast network that MTV parent Viacom bought in Jan. 30. Broadcasting is a departure for MTV, but it's a necessary strategy because cable and DBS (direct broadcast satellite) penetration is relatively low in Hispanic homes.

In December, Viacom completed the purchase of Mas Musica and 10 television stations in California and Texas from Miami-based Caballero Television. Mas Musica launched in 1998, with music videos aimed at 18- to 34-year-old U.S. Hispanics.

The stations, all low-power and Class-A outlets, are located in some of the top Hispanic markets. In California, Viacom acquired KMMC San Francisco, KMMD Salinas, KMMA San Luis Obispo, KMMW Stockton, KUMU Sacramento, KVVM Santa Barbara, and KZMM Fresno. The lone Texas outlet is KGMM San Antonio.

MTV's top priority is securing a strong outlet in Los Angeles. The company has an array of weak stations interested in becoming affiliates but is holding out for a full-power outlet.

The move is part of MTV's attempt to exploit ethnic niches. Last year, MTV launched networks aimed at Indian (MTV Desi), Korean (MTV K) and Chinese (MTV Chi) audiences.

The cable programmer has made stabs at tapping the Hispanic market for years, first importing one of its Latin American channels and more recently producing MTV en Español as a Spanish network tailored to U.S. markets.