Public Stations Set Spanish Multicast Net

Spanish-speaking viewers are going to get their own look at public television. Following a name change and several months of delays, Spanish-language multicast channel V-me TV (“See-me TV”) is now scheduled to launch March 5.

The network, a public/private partnership, will be available in some 60% of Hispanic households out of the gate — a very high ratio for a Spanish-language startup.

“Because we have such stupendous distribution, we are able to jump ahead of many other similar efforts,” V-me TV senior vice president and chief content officer Guillermo Sierra said.

Carriage stems in part from a 2005 agreement among the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and the Association of Public Television Stations, which ensured that at least one local public-TV analog signal, plus four digital channels, would be carried by each of the major cable operators.

The service, featuring programming supported by sponsorships and underwriting, but without commercials, will also be available on Verizon Communications’ FiOS TV service.

The Educational Broadcasting Corp., which holds the license for New York public broadcaster WNET, is a minority investor, with the majority of the venture held by private investors, including The Baeza Group and Syncom Funds.

According to V-me TV president Carmen DiRienzo, this arrangement “infuses millions of dollars of investment in programming that is really created for this audience.”

Aimed at bilingual and Spanish-language dominant viewers, V-Me will showcase a mix of originals, U.S. TV premieres and acquisitions across kids (preschool), lifestyle, factual and current-affairs genres, as well as movies and special events. Among the fare that will be presented on V-me: Plaza Sesamo, a Spanish-language version of Sesame Street; Jim de la Luna, an animated show about a child astronaut; telenovela Nuestro Barrio, which will be part of the daytime lifestyle schedule; and Viva Voz, a nightly one-hour interview program. Talent has yet to be announced for the latter.

Given its diverse programming in different dayparts, V-me will compete with a broad range of existing channels such as Discovery en Español and History Channel en Español.

V-me TV — first announced in October 2005 as “Viva TV”— was originally scheduled for a fall 2006 launch. Viva TV, though, happens to be the name of a German music-television channel and is very similar to the name of a Filipino television-production company. The network name was changed “to avoid brand confusion,” said DiRienzo, adding that V-me TV is “a name and a mark that could be uniquely our own.”