MTV Tr3s adds standup comedians, telenovelas to lineup

Viacom’s bilingual, bi-cultural music channel MTV Tr3s will kick off its sked July 12, expanding its programming to encompass older Latino English-Spanish speakers in the U.S. and not just its core young, urban market.

The channel, renamed Tr3s: MTV, Musica y Mas, (Tr3s: MTV, Music and More) is casting a wider net to capture more advertising and a larger share of the audience.

After all, “not all bi-culturals are young nor urban; many of them are just as likely to watch both the telenovelas on Univision and the six seasons of ‘Lost,’ ” said Antonio Ruiz, chief strategic officer and a partner at U.S. Hispanic agency the Vidal Partnership (TVP).

According to TVP’s director of media services Lucilla Iturralde-Rachev, the broadcast/cable share of ad dollars was 90%-10% in favor of broadcast networks in the past. “That shifted during the recession to 80%-20%, and pay TV networks are keen to maintain these new advertisers,” she said.

At stake is a $2.2 billion U.S. Hispanic ad market, of which $150 million to $200 million goes to Latino-centric feevees.

Tr3s, which bowed as MTV Espanol in 1998, hopes to tap into that with more diverse programming including shows from standup comedians George Lopez, Carlos Mencia and Paul Rodriguez; “Ninas mal,” a telenovela inspired by a Sony Pictures Prods. Mexico chick pic of the same title; Colombian telenovela “Juegos prohibidos” (Forbidden Games), which tracks online and offline romantic intrigue; and Mexican wrestling show “Lucha libre.”

Programming will remain 70% music-oriented despite the new shows.

Sked will bow the day after the soccer World Cup tournament ends, to avoid any conflict among soccer-mad auds, said Sofia Ioannou, who has had her mission as managing director of MTVN Latin America and Canada broadened to include U.S. Hispanic.

The feevee is also jumping onto the soccer fever bandwagon with “Rock n Gol,” a two-hour special hosted by Mencia on June 3, a week before the tourney begins.

“We are in talks to expand our sports programming,” said Jose Tillan, Tr3s general manager and exec VP in a nod to the success NBC U’s rival bilingual channel Mun2 has had with sports programming.

Ratings jumped at the 9-year-old youth-skewed channel when it began broadcasting soccer in February. Some two years ago it added more lifestyle programming and began incorporating subtitled versions of sister channel Telemundo’s telenovelas to broaden its viewership.

In January, it added movie showcase, “Have You Cine?” Compared to the previous year, the feevee boosted its viewership by 16% in the 18-49 demo, it announced last month.

The other pay TV rival in the bi-cultural, 18-34 demo is Si TV, which boasts 70% original programming.

It has garnered a loyal following on competition “Model Latina” and MySpace-originated reality show “Elle and Tito: The Married Life,” which tracks a couple who married on MySpace as they pursue their musical careers. Extreme sports show “Adrenalina” is also hot.

“When passion and content is there, the consumer will come,” said Iturralde-Rachev.

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