The bidding hasn’t even started, but a cavalcade of networks has traipsed to Colombia hoping to break the country’s TV duopoly by setting up another commercial channel, a move that’s now possible since Colombia threw open its market in August.
Six webs have come calling at CNTV, the national TV commission overseeing the process. These include NBC U’s Telemundo, Spain’s media giant Grupo Prisa and publishing house Grupo Planeta as well as Venezuelan media conglom Organizacion Cisneros, Miami-based Grupo Angel Gonzalez and Venezuelan news web Globovision.
At stake is a robust ad market valued between $400 and $500 million and a television aud of some 20 million.
Carolina Hoyos, the first female CNTV commissioner in 12 years, appointed in January, has met with each of the groups eager to challenge the incumbents, RCN and Caracol TV.
The hopeful companies are busy wooing potential local partners, as Colombia limits foreign participation in commercial television to 40%.
Cisneros, which announced its intention in early March, will partner with Colombian businessman Luis Carlos Sarmiento, who has interests in telecommunications, construction and finance.
Other local businesses reportedly interested in partnering with the foreign bidders include Casa Editorial El Tiempo with Spain’s DeAPlaneta; Televideo with Grupo Prisa and former Caracol exec Camilo Cano with Angel Gonzalez of Miami.
Telemundo, which recently struck a programming deal with Mexico’s Televisa, has the advantage of its ties with Colombian partner, production powerhouse RTI Television. Telemundo had hoped to start a third channel in Mexico but the powerful duopoly of Televisa and TV Azteca used their political heft to block the entrance of a third rival.
In contrast, the Colombian government is dead set on paving the way for a third, possibly even a fourth channel. RCN and Caracol are obviously not pleased but seem to be resigned to the fact.
“We respect the government’s decision,” says Caracol board adviser Camilo Duran.
The bidding has been delayed while CNTV conducts market studies to evaluate whether the Colombian TV market can support one or two extra commercial webs. The decision may not come until June and it won’t be until year-end before they announce the winning bids. Meanwhile, the jockeying continues.