Q&A: Mexicanal’s Luis Torres-Bohl

Late last month The Mexicanal Television Network struck an agreement with Milwaukee-based Journal Broadcast Group to distribute its signal via multicast to Mexican communities in Las Vegas; Palm Springs, Calif.; Tucson, Ariz.; and Boise, Idaho. As a result of the deal, effective as early as the third quarter, Mexicanal is expected to increase its reach by roughly 1.2 million viewers, from its current 1 million. Hispanic TV Update spoke to Mexicanal president Luis Torres-Bohl about the agreement, the importance of multicasting and the adoption of digital technology by Mexicans living in the United States. An edited transcript follows:

Q: How did the deal with Journal Broadcast Group come about?

A: From the very moment Mexicanal was created [in 2005] our intention was to try to reach 100% of all Mexicans living in the United States, around 35 million people. And this is exactly what the multicasting deal with Journal Broadcast Group will help us achieve. We had a two-year exclusivity agreement with DirecTV, so as soon as it was over -- in October 2007 -- we began to pursue other distribution opportunities. We started talking to [Journal Broadcast Group] in November, so this deal is the result of months of negotiations.

Q: What is the importance of this agreement in terms of distribution for your network?

A: Well, we currently reach about 1 million viewers with DirecTV, and we estimate our reach will increase by about 1.2 million through the multicasting agreement with Journal Broadcast Group. This deal though is not exclusive, so we are looking at other [distribution] possibilities with other broadcasting groups. We are looking at cable and also at other multicast opportunities.

Q: Journal Broadcast Group operates 35 radio stations and 11 TV stations in 12 states. Why is the deal limited to only four states (Nevada, California, Arizona, Idaho)?

A: There is a possibility to expand the number of markets. But for now, these happen to be the markets with the highest number of Hispanics. There is a possibility of course to expand this in the near future.

Q: Why is multicasting important for Mexicanal?

A: As the network’s name implies, this is a channel for Mexicans … all Mexicans. Remember Mexico is not just Mexico City; it is 32 states, many cities and many people, not just the 20 million that happen to live in the capital. In fact, if you add the Mexicans that live in the United States, you have an audience of approximately 150 million people. We are not a channel that broadcast news and information about Mexicans who live in L.A. or who live in Mexico City; we cover many other cities: Campeche, Merida, Toluca, Morelia and Guadalajara and its surrounding communities.

Q: Do you think Mexicans living in the U.S. -- your core audience -- are prepared for the digital switch?

A: The digital transition is not an “if” or a “when,” but it’s going to happen no matter what. There are no decisions to be made. The decision has been taken and it’s going to happen as soon as February of 2009, so it is inevitable. I believe that the adoption of the technology is going to be very fast, because if you want to watch TV, even if it’s only over-the-air channels, you must adopt the new technology. As far as Hispanics go, I think this transition is a great opportunity for the different ethnic groups to have a voice in their communities. They will be able to access quality programming from their respective communities back home that they didn’t have before. I am confident that by offering a programming alternative to what is out there, [our core audience] will adopt the technology relatively fast.