New network targeting bilingual aud

Indie production outfit Si Television is making headway on its self-prescribed mission to bring more Hispanic-themed programming to the English-lingo TV market by inking sitcom pilot deals with Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel.

At the same time, Si TV, headed by producer Jeff Valdez, is in the early stages of lining up investors for a cable network that would target the nation’s fast-growing bilingual Hispanic aud.

Valdez has assembled an advisory board of notables like Jimmy Smits, Roseanne, Daisy Fuentes, Cheech Marin and Hector Elizondo to help drum up interest from Wall Street and other funding sources. Plans for the channel are in the embryonic state, but the bilingual Hispanic aud is considered a ripe target for the niche-oriented world of cable programming.

“There is no national outlet for this market,” said Valdez. “There is a huge amount of talent and material out there, but there’s so little on TV today that reflects the experience and culture of the vast majority of the young Latinos in this country.”

Toward that end, Nickelodeon has greenlit a pilot for “Brothers Garcia,” a dramedy described as akin to “The Wonder Years,” revolving the reflections of an adult man on growing up in a close-knit family in San Antonio, Texas.

The Disney Channel, meanwhile, is developing “Just for Kicks,” a comedy about an aging soccer star’s efforts to adjust to life in the Midwest with his American wife and young son.

Although Si TV is intent on adding more Hispanic voices to the mainstream TV mix, Valdez stresses the overriding goal is to produce strong, funny programs with crossover appeal.

“I almost hate to call it ‘Latino programming,’ because we really want these shows to appeal to all Americans,” he said. “We are dealing with universal themes. The fact that Latinos happen to be in them should really be secondary for the audience.”

In syndication, Si TV is bankrolling two more “Funny Is Funny” comedy specs and two more installments of “Cafe Ole With Giselle Fernandez” for broadcast later this year.

Both English-lingo programs were originally produced for the Univision-owned Galavision cabler before Si TV opted to take the shows into national syndication last year as a series of quarterly specs.

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