B'caster launching March 27
MADRID — With showmen, it’s easy to put on a show. So last week’s Madrid presentation of La Sexta, Spain’s newest terrestrial broadcaster, zinged with chutzpah.Sexta prexy Emilio Aragon bounded on stage, with the same boyish enthusiasm he tapped to front Telecinco’s ’90s variety show “VIP Noche.” Motormouth comic El Gran Wyoming explained why news magazine “El Intermedio” would be the best TV program ever. Launching March 27, Sexta’s Spanish partners, all production houses, are led by Arbol, makers of Telecinco watercooler series “Aida” and “The Serranos”; and Mediapro, a specialist in live newscasts. Some 40% of La Sexta is held by Mexico’s Televisa. Expertise notwithstanding, La Sexta has to negotiate some roadblocks. Its analog signal will reach only 70% of Spaniards, and then only if they adjust aerials. Company forecasts $585.6 million in losses before break even. “There’s a question whether Televisa’s partners have the financial capacity to sustain large losses,” says Javier Marin, of Morgan Stanley. The web aims for 7% market share in 2010. “If audiences fragment in Spain, big advertisers will focus on the biggest channels — Telecinco and Antena 3,” Marin adds. But La Sexta is meeting these challenges head on. It’s talking to capital risk companies, other financial entities and Spanish production houses, Sexta CEO Jose Miguel Contreras says. Its primetime will run one hour earlier than rivals — 9 p.m.-11 p.m. — to encourage family viewing. It has bid for 2006 World Cup soccer rights. Per Contreras, its bid is “substantially lower” than the reported $119 million, but still the highest offer. Some 25% of its $238.5 million annual programming budget will go on international, mostly U.S., shows. Sexta has closed nine series with Fox, including “My Name Is Earl,” “The Practice” and “How I Met Your Mother,” as well as NBC’s “Surface,” “Law and Order,” HBO’s “The Sopranos” and “Third Watch.” Snagging the World Cup would be a huge fillip for La Sexta. Even it is doesn’t get soccer rights, however, expect La Sexta to be assiduously courting the majors at the Mip TV mart in Cannes next month.