Spain says hola to immigrants

Canal Plus Latino's main lure is soccer

MADRID — Latin American immigrants are an inviting target for bankers, telcos, travel agencies … and now pay TV companies.

Last month, Sogecable, Spain’s pay TV leader, announced its most ambitious move to date to target Spain’s Latin America community: the launch of channel package Canal Plus Latino.

Canal Plus Latino’s main lure is soccer. Premium channel Canal Plus Futbol includes Latin America’s principal soccer championships, plus some icing on the cake: the Copa America 2007, a competition among the best 12 national teams of the continent, to be held in Venezuela, June 26-July 15.

It also offers top general entertainment webs from Ecuador (Ecuavisa Intl.), Colombia (Caracol TV Intl.), Mexico (Canal de las Estrellas), Cuba (Cubavision Intl.) and Brazil (TV Record).

Added to the mix: TNT, Fox’s kids-oriented Jetix, Televisa’s Telenovelas and Sogecable’s musicvid service 40 Latino.

Spain-based Latinos form an obvious growth sector — and then some.

In 2006, according to the INE National Statistics Institute, of Spain’s 44.7 million inhabitants, 4.2 million (9.3%) were immigrants, a spectacular hike from only 923,879 in 2000. In all 31.3% of immigrants are Latinos.

Canal Plus Latino costs E19.95 ($26.85) a month. Even at that price, pay TV has been a tough sell to Spaniards. Why would poorer Latinos leap at it?

The key is Latinos’ growing wealth, pricing and soccer, say analysts.

“Latinos are acquiring consumer muscle. They’re looking for specific leisure products. Yes, they’re careful with money, But they’ll buy if the price is right,” says Alex Martinez Roig, director of contents at Sogecable’s platform Digital Plus, which distributes CPL.

“Contrasting with other immigrants, Latinos bring from their countries a strong culture of pay TV, thanks to cable TV,” argues Gema Solano, triple play operator Jazztel’s head of TV contents.

“Some Latinos will pay. But there’s a ceiling — around $27. The offers that work include soccer and hit shows,” says Eduardo Garcia Matilla, prexy of audience research company Corporacion Multimedia.

Since February, Jazztel’s IPTV service Jazztelia has offered TV Pack Latino 30 TV channels, including Ecua TV and Caracol TV Intl. for $26.80 a month including renting the set-top box. Twenty-eight channels aren’t Latino-specific. But Jazztelia plans to shortly add Mexican and Colombian channels, with six to eight more channels by the end of the year.

On its basic tier, top cabler ONO offers Venevision Continental, Caracol TV Intl., TV Chile, Cubavision Intl., Ecua TV and Ecuavisa.

The next challenge could be for Spain-based production houses to produce Latino-specific content.

But the Latino channel spate already underscores a radical remodeling of Spanish pay TV.

Canal Plus originally launched in 1990 as an upscale, middle class service.

Nowadays, it can’t afford to ignore any potential audience: Sogecable is studying Eastern Europe and North African services, says Martinez Roig.

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