CBS’ saving gracias

Medcom pacts cash for TeleNoticias stake

MIAMI — Troubled Latino newsnet CBS TeleNoticias has found a potential savior in Mexican media group Medcom, which is to take a 70% stake in the channel.

Medcom, best known in Mexico as a radio player, will become the cabler’s managing partner while CBS will continue to provide the programming. The net will retain the CBS moniker and Medcom will assume editorial control.

Deal is indicative of CBS’ near-exit from the Latino cable arena; already last fall it sold its interest in Country Music TV’s Latino service to partner Gaylord.

Cash transaction

Exact financial terms were not revealed, but CBS sold its stake for cash — which will not be put back into the cabler — a spokeswoman said.

Nearly four years after launch, TeleNoticias is understood to be losing money.

In a prepared statement, CBS topper Mel Karmazin said Medcom would help boost the net’s international distribution, but Medcom’s inexperience in pay TV makes that claim sound hopeful at best.

Neither CBS nor Medcom executives were available for comment.

Second time around

The purchase means a second change in ownership for the cabler, which started life in December 1994, as a joint venture between Reuters and U.S. Hispanic broadcaster Telemundo.

In mid-1996, CBS paid $6 million for the channel — then bleeding around $14 million per year — in a complex deal that is believed to have involved the assumption of debt and various contractual obligations to Telemundo.

TeleNoticias prexy Francisco de la Torre, who sought partners from among a slew of U.S. and Latino players, will remain as channel president.

Over the last year, Karmazin has put pressure on TeleNoticias to speed up its breakeven target, but results have been mixed.

Successes in the syndication of top shows like talker “En Director con Jaime Bayly” have been countered by loss of carriage in Brazil, a reduced commitment from the net’s Mexico City carrier and a short-lived broadcast partnership with No. 2 Brazilian broadcaster SBT.

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