The powerful duopoly held by RCN and Caracol TV in Colombia will be shattered on February 2009 when a third terrestrial channel is slated to launch.
The country’s National TV Commission intends to kick off the bidding in spring for a third terrestrial broadcasting license, which it will issue by October 2008.
Among potential bidders are Spain’s media conglom Prisa and publishing powerhouse Planeta; Mexican media congloms Televisa and Grupo Angel Gonzalez; and local film production company RTI, an exclusive programming partner of NBC U unit Telemundo.
Telemundo, which has been frustrated by its attempts to own a channel in Mexico, could use its RTI link to enter the Colombian market, instead
“Colombia is one of the markets we’re looking to grow our business … content production and/or distribution,” says Telemundo spokesman Alfredo Richard.
TV commissioner Ricardo Galen says the new web is intended to “expand TV viewers’ programming options in news, opinion and entertainment.
“From 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily, the two (incumbent) channels show virtually nothing but telenovelas.”
Naturally, RCN and Caracol are unhappy about the looming competition. Both have competed fiercely for ratings and auds since their launch in 1997 and local opinion is split as to whether the local TV ad market can support a third private web.
Galan points to Colombia’s robust economy and growing ad spend, which he says grew to $370 million last year and has risen 1% to 2% over the Gross National Product in recent years.
“If the ad markets of countries smaller than Colombia, like Panama, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, can absorb four or five private channels each, Colombia can certainly cope,” he adds.
RCN TV prexy Gabriel Reyes, a former communications vice minister who helped draw up the legislation that permitted the launch of the RCN and Caracol, disagrees.
He says local TV’s share in the advertising pie has remained at 53% for three years.
“The third channel already exists and that is pay television in Colombia,” he says. “This sector competes with free TV for advertising as well as generates income from subscriptions; an unfair advantage. We don’t think there is room for a new channel.”