Venture Says ‘Si’ to SVOD

While an early stab at a Spanish-language subscription video-on-demand service from DirecTV didn’t survive for the long haul, a trio of media companies and major programmers believe that such a service can not only survive, but thrive, with the right mix of content.

The latest company to place a bet on OTT and SVOD is Hemisphere Media. The company, which runs a mix of Spanish-language pay TV and broadcast networks, recently teamed up with Lionsgate and Univision on an SVOD movie service that’s set to debut sometime in 2017.

“Our goal is to be out [and launched] as early in the year as possible,” Alan Sokol, CEO of Hemisphere, said.

The partners involved in the OTT initiative haven’t announced a name for the new SVOD service (they’ve found one they “feel very good about,” Sokol said), and are still studying different pricing options.

“There’s a huge opportunity” for the new service, Sokol said. “We think that the target audience for the service is really underserved by existing options in the market. None of the incumbent, big SVOD players really service the market we’re going after. We feel that we can own that space.”

Hemisphere, Lionsgate and Univision Communications are traveling ground already pursued by another distribution giant and will also be facing some competition right out of the blocks.

DirecTV targeted that market with Yaveo, an SVOD service that launched in late 2014 but was shut down the following December, roughly five months after the satellite-TV firm was acquired by AT&T.

The new offering will compete with Glosi, a Hispanic-focused SVOD service from Cox Communications introduced in August that started off with “thousands of hours” of content. During the early tr0ial phase that kicked off, Glosi was being sold for $9.99 per month, but at last check was being offered for $4.99 per month.

Sokol said he believes that the new SVOD offering will stand apart with an unmatched library of movies that will feature “several hundred titles at launch,” and will later add TV series.

For the service, Hemisphere will be combining its movie library with Spanish-language titles from Pantelion Films, Lionsgate’s joint venture with Televisa, and Hollywood films from Lionsgate’s 16,000-title library and other catalogues that are dubbed into Spanish.

At inception, the service will focus on providing movies from the library of the partners. “Over time, we would like to evolve into original production as well,” Sokol said. “There will also be movies produced specifically for this service by the partners.”

They’ll also seek distribution synergies with Univision Now, a subscription service launched last year that sells for $5.99 per month or $49.99 per year.

The new service will target U.S. Spanish-speaking homes with an emphasis on cord-cutters and cord-nevers.

Hemisphere’s traditional channels are growing, Sokol said.

“But there’s tremendous runway to grow and satisfy the interests and demands of Hispanics what don’t receive our [traditional] package,” he added, noting that about two-thirds of his target audience in the U.S. currently doesn’t receive a package in which Hemisphere’s content is carried.