TuTV Helps Operators Market VOD

In an effort to help pump up digital penetration in Spanish-language households, TuTV is providing a suite of 100 classics of Mexican cinema for distribution on its affiliates’ video-on-demand platforms.

The movies hail from the “golden era” of cine Mexicano, the World War II years when American and European filmmaking was moribund, according to TuTV president Chris Fager. The films feature icons of the era such as Dolores del Rio, Lucha Villa and Pedro Armendariz; plus stars who now are noted for their work in popular telenovelas: Humberto Zurita, Claudia Ramirez and Joaquin Cordero.

“These are titles that are very well known by up to 75% of the population who are of Mexican origin,” said Fager. “They are films fans watch over and over again, just as English-language audiences review The Wizard of Oz and reminisce about the first time they were scared by the flying monkeys.”

A joint partnership of Grupo Televisa and Univision Communications, TuTV launched in 2003 and counts operators, including Cox Communications and Charter Communications among its affiliates. It currently distributes music and general-entertainment channels De Pelicula, De Pelicula Classico, Telehit, Ritmason Latino and Bandamax, which are simulcast in Mexico and the U.S.

Although those and other major operators continue to add Spanish-language programming to their lineups, recent research shows that Hispanic households still rely most heavily on broadcast television for their entertainment. Though TuTV passes 11 million Hispanic homes, through cable and direct-broadcast satellite affiliations, only 3.5 million of those homes have digital cable service, Fager said.

“What’s been missing is high-quality programming to draw [the segment] to digital,” said TuTV chief financial officer Carlos Medrazo. Through its parent companies, the distributor has access to thousands of classic movie titles that other Spanish-targeted networks don’t have, he added.

The only delay to market, Medrazo explained, has been rights clearances. The films were created in an era when no one anticipated the arrival of VOD. Executives at TuTV, which has a whole army of lawyers working through those issues, stress that the pending sale of

Univision would not impact the VOD rollout.

“We’re a stand-alone company,” Fager said.

To support the initiative, TuTV has developed a selection of off-the-shelf promotions to build market awareness for its VOD push, as well as its digital channels.

These promotions also leverage the distributor’s relationships with other Hispanic-targeted companies. For instance, one promotion offers free six-month subscriptions to Latina or People en Espanol for each new Spanish-language digital package subscriber who signs up during an affiliate’s campaign. Other premiums include pop hits compilation CDs, or sweepstakes featuring autographed Gibson guitars or Banda hats. The promos have proved especially valuable to systems that don’t have Spanish-language sales teams.

Consumers have flocked to local events featuring talent from the channels, according to Ariela Nerubay, vice president, sales and marketing. Even if viewers don’t currently get the channels, they hear about them from relatives in Mexico, she said.

At a Cox Cable Las Vegas appearance, hundreds of people were waiting to meet show hosts and spin a prize wheel, while sales agents for the cable operator were working the line, she said.

The VOD content will be offered free to consumers -- “for the moment,” Fager said. The company would like to see usage numbers before they plot a long-term strategy. Metadata for VOD guides is provided exclusively in Spanish.