Seeking a wider audience

Syndication distributor The African Heritage Network is changing its name and bringing out a pair of weekend series for the 2002-03 season.

Founded in 1993 by Frank Mercado Valdes, The African Heritage Network has distributed first-run series and specials targeting African-American audiences. Now Mercado Valdes is looking to expand the company to other audiences, so he's changing the name to The Heritage Networks.

"We have wanted to expand and, over the years, have occasionally picked up general-market, Latino and Asian programming," says Mercado Valdes. "So we realized going forward that there were other markets that we needed to approach using the same methods we have been using for African-American programming. We think the name change will serve us well as we move into the future."

The Heritage Networks is a full-service distributor that has lately enjoyed success on the advertising side of the syndication business. It has handled the barter ad sales for Universal's off-net run of New York Undercover
and Paramount's Moesha
and, says Mercado Valdes, is close to signing a deal with Twentieth TV to represent the ad sales on The Hughleys.

In first-run, the company distributes weekly one-hour series The Source:All-Access. Next fall, Heritage Networks will launch a weekly fashion series titled 'N Gear
and is co-producing Livin' Large
with Dick Clark Productions. Carsey-Werner will distribute Livin' Large, a weekly series described as a hip-hop Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. 'N Gear, hosted by male supermodel Tyson Beckford, will go behind the scenes of the fashion industry.

"We really believe," says Mercado Valdes, "there is a bright future for a syndication company that can find the niche audiences on the weekend and deliver to advertisers an audience that they are looking for."