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NY1 Noticias, Casa Enter Latino Scene

The number of cable networks aimed at Latino audiences continues to expand. AOL Time Warner Inc. tonight (June 30) is set to launch New York 1 Noticias, a long-awaited all-news service for Spanish-speaking citizens of metropolitan New York City.

Initially, the channel will appear on Time Warner Cable of New York City's digital basic and DTV en Español tiers.

As Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. awaited feedback on its bid for Vivendi Universal Entertainment, its MGM Networks Latin America operation premiered Casa Club TV domestically on DirecTV Inc.

The six-year-old lifestyle and home-crafts network, currently in 18 countries and reaching about 6 million households, is now available as part of DirecTV's Para Todos assortment.

For NY1 Noticias, Time Warner Cable has its New York City and Bergen/Hudson County, N.J. systems in tow, but not Cablevision Systems Corp. or its iO: Interactive Optimum digital platform.

"We're having some discussions with them," noted Steve Paulus, NY 1 News senior vice president and general manager. "After we launch, they'll want to carry it fairly soon."

A Cablevision spokeswoman did not indicate when Noticias might be added.

By and large, NY1 Noticias will adopt the format of its 11-year-old English parent — half-hour news blocks, weather every 10 minutes, beat reporting and living segments. However, topics of special interest to local Latinos will be emphasized, such as public education, immigration and health matters. And on Noticias, NY1's "World Beyond New York" segments will cover developments in Latin America.

"We want to bring out stories not being told," executive producer Maritza Puello said. "This is about addressing and uniting a very diverse set of communities living in one city."

Three anchors will rotate throughout the day, and the channel has only one dedicated reporter so far. Paulus said he will hire at least one more reporter in the weeks ahead, while selected NY1 reporters will file original segments for Noticias.

Verizon and local bedding chain Sleepy's are the channel's charter advertisers. Both will reprise their NY1 feature sponsorships on Noticias — Verizon with a "Community Calendar" at the top and bottom of each hour, and Sleepy's with "In The Papers," a summary of daily press coverage.

The service has approached some Latino-targeted advertising agencies and will hire one or two employees in the next few weeks to handle Noticias business. Some combination contracts — matching Noticias with NY1 News, other DTV en Español tier services or analog network Galavisión — will be explored, said NY1 sales director Joanne Tombrakos.

Agency executives see Noticias drawing sales as soon as some ratings data comes in.

"When we see the ratings, we'll present this option to our clients," said Gloria Constanza, senior vice president of media services with The Bravo Group.

"I'm sure NY1 will do a responsible job, something of equal quality to their regular channel, said Reynardus & Moya Inc. president Jorge Reynardus. "This is something our advertisers will consider."

For its part, MGM will launch a drive to attract sponsors for Casa Club shortly. The network's format consists of morning cooking and cuisine shows, how-to home repair and decorating series in afternoons and a primetime mix of lifestyle and design programming.

About one-third of the content is original, and much of it is U.S.-produced.

Several cable operators are negotiating Casa Club carriage, according to Gustavo Pupo-Mayo, CEO of MGM Networks Latin America.

"A few negotiations are very far along, but I can't discuss them," he said. "We're pursuing cable deals in a big way."

Talks with DirecTV's DBS rival, EchoStar Communications Corp., are also ongoing.