Lara fine-tunes plan for Fox Latin channel

For U.S. programmers of Latin American-directed satellite channels – MTV Latino, TNT, Fox and a dozen others – the past year has been a time of transition.

Cries of “Gold rush!” have given way to words of caution about channel saturation; the bustle of signal launches has been replaced by the gradual surging of subscriber counts. A recent study by Audits & Surveys has equipped programmers with data for their next mission: wooing advertisers.

Concepcion Lara, senior VP of the Fox Latin America Channel, is doing just that. She’s convinced that Fox’s top rating among general entertainment channels in the 18-34 age group positions the channel perfectly to attract the same big-name advertisers that place with Fox’s broadcast arm.

The 18-to-34 range is a target group Fox is especially close to, as the channel may be the youngest in terms of personnel. Lara is just 35, while her right-hand woman and marketing director, Carolina Lightcap, is only 27.

One of Hollywood’s few Latina execs, Lara’s vigorous approach to marketing – including an award-winning series of sumptuous promo graphics – has helped build the channel a 3.8 million subscriber count in a mere 18 months.

One move to lure advertisers involves original programming. Fox is likely to source soon from Galan Entertainment, a production company under the corporate Fox umbrella specializing in Latino-directed product and run by Lara’s close friend Nely Galan.

Lara also is meeting with Latin American producers – but proceeding cautiously, perhaps more so than her competitors. “I wouldn’t rush to do original product,” she says. “Sometimes the production values just aren’t there yet.”

Fine-tuning also means catering to the linguistic challenge presented by Brazil. Fox was the first U.S. channel to offer a 100% Portuguese-language signal in the territory, Lara says.

Recently Lara signed up with NET Brasil’s direct-to-home service, which means the Fox signal will be down-linked from its pan-Latin satellite and re-uplinked for Brazilian consumers – NET’s and those with rival system operator TVA.

“This effectively creates ‘Fox Brasil’ and provides the opportunity to tailor the product with specific programming and advertising,” Lara says.

Lara recently has been spending a lot of time in Brazil, where pay TV growth potential is high. Research on the market is scant, she says, so talking to consumers and operators is all the more important. But at the same time, the energetic exec was sure not to miss out on Carnaval.

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