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TuTv's Five Flavors

Bigger isn't always better when it comes to Hispanic marketing, says Ariela Nerubay, VP of sales and marketing at TuTv, a five-channel venture between Televisa and Univision.

When she used to work on ad accounts for various cable companies, she learned that the promise of a small promotional gift often attracted more customers than a contest promising a lone winner a big prize, like a flat-screen TV.

So, when she put together a direct marketing campaign for TuTv's channels and Charter Communications's Hispanic tier, Nerubay decided they'd offer new subscribers a subscription to Latina magazine.

The response, she says, was terrific. “With direct response, a 1% or 2% response rate is really good,” she notes. “We generated a 5% response”—about 3,000 new subscribers.

Such promotions show how adroitly TuTv publicizes its five different channels, in a difficult marketing landscape.

Not all distributors offer every channel but TuTV has a broad menu. De Película, with over 3,000 Spanish-language movies, and Telehit, a music and lifestyle channel that features up to nine hours a day of original programs, reach 1.5 million Hispanic homes. De Película Clásico, which airs over 1,500 movies from the 1930s to the '50s, has 1.3 million homes. Ritmoson Latino, with its salsa and pop music, is in 350,000 homes, and Bandamax, focusing on regional Mexican music, reaches 250,000.

Tutv is trying to stand out in the highly competitive Hispanic market, where more than 90 Spanish-language cable and satellite networks are competing for carriage.

“I don't think anyone is behind their marketing campaigns and working with operators to promote the Hispanic packages the way we are,” says President Chris Fager. “It is not like the way it used to be when there were only a few channels. You really need to distinguish yourself in the market.”

A 50/50 venture between Televisa and Univsion, TuTv counts on support from its two powerful, if fractious, owners. Fager dismisses the well-publicized battles between Televisa and Univision. “Their relationship hasn't affected our business at all,” he says. “We are profitable, and both companies have been extremely supportive of everything we've done.”

For example, he adds, Univision supplies domestic support for the operations while Televisa supplies the five channels.

But TuTv handles its own distribution and ad sales. “We didn't want to be perceived as something that was going to be crammed down the operators' throats,” says Fager.

The channels, which are widely distributed throughout Latin America, are well-established brands among the Mexican-Americans who make up two-thirds of the U.S. Hispanic population, says Fager. “De Película has been on the air since 1979,” he notes, while Telehit, Bandamax and Ritmoson have all been available in Mexico since the mid 1990s.

TuTv's networks do not rank in the top 10 Hispanic channels in terms of distribution. But sub counts are growing, with carriage deals for three of them on EchoStar, Cox and Charter. It recently concluded a corporate deal with Time Warner Cable and is talking with individual TWC systems, which make the final decisions about carriage. TuTv also has deals with Verizon, AT&T, RCN and Qwest, among others.

TuTv is working to bolster that appeal with a VOD product of 300 movies that launched on Cox a few weeks ago. About six movies are available at any one time. “Right now there isn't much available in [Spanish-language] VOD,” says Fager, “and we felt it would be a major advantage to offer one.”

Marketing is also a major advantage, TuTv executives believe. In recent years, cable operators have been working overtime to improve their packages. Most of the major operators now have entry-level packages for $25 to $30 that are competitive both in terms of price and the number of channels with satellite providers. But they still lag behind Echostar and DirecTV in sub counts, and are ramping up their marketing efforts.

“It is a very steep learning curve for them,” Fager says. “We've been at it for three years and in that time we've seen all of them bring [in] dedicated marketing executives and put much more effort in that area.”