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Taking on the Big Guys

Spanish-born Alvaro Garnica has a big challenge ahead. As
the recently appointed general manager of Vme, he is charged with growing the
Spanish-language network into a force that can effectively compete with big
players for the coveted Hispanic audience. A Grupo Prisa veteran and former
Televisa executive, Garnica knows a thing or two about what tickles Latinos'
interest on television. Garnica spoke with Hispanic TV Update about the
challenges and opportunities ahead, and about what he sees as the future of
television. An edited transcript follows.

MCN: You have been at the helm of Vme for a few weeks
now. What would you say are the biggest challenges ahead?

Alvaro Garnica:
In a competitive U.S. market, my biggest goal is to build and develop on the
solid base already established by Vme, both for its main network, Vme and the
cable channel, Vme Kids. The biggest challenge will be maintaining the
network's programming philosophy while increasing audience share and making the
network more popular with Latino audiences.

MCN: What would you
say are the biggest opportunities?

AG: Vme has a
place in the U.S. Hispanic market and there is a need for a network with
quality Spanish-language content that feels comfortable to the audience and is
built on respect and pride of the culture. Vme is a broad-based network that
has appeal to all Latinos and the network is steeped in both education and
entertainment. Through the network partners and sister organizations within the
Prisa family, Vme can generate synergies that will help in the width and breath
of Vme's offerings and increase opportunities for viewers and clients.

MCN: Your predecessor, Carmen Di Rienzo, liked to
talk about a real alternative to telenovelas, sports and the usual Hispanic
"fare." Is this still your mandate? How would you achieve this?

AG: Vme remains
committed to offering unique and high-quality programming that is of interest
to the U.S. Hispanic community. We will continue with the same programming
philosophy. In addition to solid daily programming, Vme will premiere a major
new series each month such as Los Kennedy
(The Kennedys) and Pilares de la Tierra (Pillars of the Earth), among others. Vme
will also continue to offer the best children's programming in Spanish on the
main network and the cable channel, Vme Kids.

MCN: With Univision continuing to dominate the
ratings -- and advertising revenue -- for the U.S Hispanic market, waht can Vme
do to become a competing force?

AG: Vme has had solid
initial ratings in this first year of measurements, with sustained growth over
2011. The ratings, combined with solid and stable distribution and continual
focus on quality programming and a deep sales strategy, have strengthened Vme's
portfolio of advertisers. Our goal will be to build and enhance all of these
factors in the coming year.

MCN: How involved is Grupo Prisa in the day to day
operations of Vme? Is Prisa planning on bringing more executives from Spain or
Miami to Vme in New York?

AG: Like other
partners, Grupo Prisa remains very committed to Vme. Prisa's vast knowledge and
business holdings in radio (GLR), digital (Digital Prisa) and education
(Santillana) in the U.S. and Latin America offer synergies and scale for Vme.
There are no plans to incorporate more executives from the Prisa into the
network, rather to increase collaboration across the Prisa businesses.

MCN: Will Vme incorporate more programming from
Spain? Do you think this programming will work with Hispanic audiences?

AG: Vme's
strategy is not regionally focused but rather focused on bringing the best
programs from around the globe. There are many quality series and miniseries
developed in Spain that will be attractive to U.S. Hispanic audience. Some of
the series we already have on air have done well with our audience, so we know
these programs can be successful in the U.S.

MCN: How about original productions? Obviously these
are expensive, but both Univision and Telemundo spend a lot of resources on
this ... is there a budget for Vme to engage in original productions?

Vme has
several original programs which have been solid with viewers such as Pase VIP de L'Oreal, MiMascota, TuBebe, Vme Cocina, Nota Musical, Alta Tension and Jorge
Gestoso Investiga
. Additionally we are developing other original programs
in the sports, reality adventure and travel genres. Original productions that
facilitate product integration and can be used across media platforms are
important to Vme's clients and are of interest in other markets.

MCN: What's your take on the future of Hispanic
television? Do you think your children will continue to watch the television as
we know it now?

AG: U.S. Hispanic
television is constantly evolving, as is the Latino community. We believe that
although there will always be new platforms, television still prevails with the
consumers and this is especially true for a country where 75% of Latinos speak
Spanish at home and where their culture is based on the development and
maintenance of the family. Television is still the center of entertainment as
long as it offers programs that that appeals to Hispanic culture, education,
food, music and customs -- this is what you find on Vme.
But definitely our children are changing their consumption
habits and we need to be constantly evolving with them. The great thing about
the newer media is that television is no longer passive, but is active as it
engages with the audience.
Vme is already delivering its content across many platforms
and we will continue to evolve with all new media.