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Viacom Buying 'Más Música’ Assets

Viacom Inc.’s quest for a bigger beachhead in domestic Spanish-language television has led it to acquire Eduardo Caballero’s Más Música TeVe Network and 10 of his TV stations, officials said last week about the pending transaction.

While Viacom has some Spanish-language cable channels — such as MTV Español — it lacks the larger presence in the booming U.S. Spanish-language TV market that other media conglomerates, like NBC Universal, possess.

Más Música TeVe — essentially a Spanish-language MTV: Music Television, in terms of its format — would give Viacom significant penetration in the domestic Hispanic market. It targets Hispanics ages 18 to 34 with music and entertainment programming, including a good portion of music videos and popular Spanish music formats such as regional Mexican, Latin pop, tropical and rock en Español.

“Every year you see more advertising dollars and budget moved to that [Hispanic] demographic, and unless you have something in your portfolio to sell them, you’re going to just simply miss out on a growing percentage of their budgets,” said Leonard Firestone, CEO of Firestone Communications, whose Sorpresa network sells kids programming to Más Música TeVe.

TV-advertising spending (local and national) in Hispanic media was just shy of $2 billion in 2004, up about 12% from 2003 totals, according to data from Hispanic Business magazine.

Más Música TeVe, which bills itself as the only U.S.-produced Hispanic music network, currently reaches just under 70% of U.S. Hispanic households, mainly through carriage on TV stations, some of them low-powered stations.

Earlier this year, Más Música TeVe signed an affiliation agreement with Comcast Corp., getting a hunting license to try to expand its distribution to cable carriage. As part of that pact, Más Música TeVe agreed to provide 10 hours of programming for Comcast’s On Demand en Español service.

Viacom has the resources and is in the best position to grow Más Música TeVe and serve the increasingly important Hispanic market, according to Eduardo Caballero, the CEO of both Caballero Television LLC and Más Música TeVe.

“They [Viacom] certainly are in a much better position to bring Más Música to the next step,” he said. “We think this is a very viable product that is needed in the market, because of the importance music has to reach all the different Hispanic groups.”

Caballero, a Hispanic broadcasting and advertising pioneer, declined to discuss financial details of the pending sale. But Viacom has filed papers with the Federal Communications Commission seeking approval for the purchase of Más Música TeVe and the Caballero stations that air it.

A spokeswoman for Viacom’s MTV Networks said it was premature to talk about the company’s plans at this time but that details would be forthcoming.

Ten of Caballero’s 12 TV stations, plus 30 other TV-station affiliates, carry Más Música TeVe. Caballero, who launched Más Música TeVe in 1998, reportedly will head up the network’s ad sales under Viacom.

The stations Caballero is selling are mainly located in northern California and central Texas. “They were very smart in the cities they chose to broadcast in and the footprint they created so they could really concentrate the signals into the areas that they knew were very heavily Hispanic concentrated,” Firestone said. “If you focus on some five to seven states, you can reach 80% to 85% of the Hispanic population in the country.”