Rookie network lives on tweet street

Spanish soiTV driven by social media

A group of former RCTV execs in Miami have joined forces to launch a social media-driven Spanish-language TV network, soiTV (Sistema de Opinion Interactivo).

Venezuelan banker Eligio Cedeno, who was imprisoned for nearly three years by the Venezuelan government and subsequently secured political asylum in the U.S., invested more than $20 million in the nascent venture. The over-the-air channel, which features general-interest programming, had a soft launch in March, and is now in 16 cities in the U.S. and Canada, while carriage talks are under way with cable and satellite platforms.

“Many other networks use social media, but in our case, this forms the backbone of our programming,” says CEO Julian Isaac. Viewers are encouraged via Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, YouTube and (others) to comment on and interact with the programming. Their comments pop up on the TV screen.

Programming is a mix of telenovelas (about 40% of the sked, including titles like Caracol’s “La Teacher de Ingles” and “Los Canarios” as well as Argos Mexico/Telemundo co production “Gitanas”), news (with flagship program “El Opiniario,” where the audience can comment on the news in real time), sports and reality shows. The channel includes content from Colombia’s Caracol TV, Telemundo, Teco Mexico, Frequencia Latina Peru and Sur America. Viewers are encouraged to influence programming choices through online polls.

Isaac points out that soiTV is bent on targeting U.S. Hispanics, with programming that is wide-ranging.

Despite its soft launch and no marketing efforts until the fourth quarter this year, soiTV’s website has posted 172,000 monthly visits on average, and its Twitter account ranks third among U.S. Hispanic networks, after Univision and Telemundo. On YouTube, soiTV has attracted 1.29 million views to date.

“There are no rule books written yet for interactive TV so we’re learning everyday; it’s a matter of trial and error,” says Isaac, adding, “at least we’re not receiving any threats (from the Venezuelan government).”

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