Fox bows new cable channel

Fox Intl. is launching the Fox Latin American Channel on Aug. 14 in countries ranging from Mexico to Argentina, Brazil and the Caribbean basin.

The new general entertainment cable network will initially screen Fox product 24 hours a day in Spanish, Portuguese and English, said Rafael Pastor, exec VP, Fox Intl., at a press conference Wednesday.

Fox expects it will have a “minimum” of 1 million to 1.5 million subscribers by the end of year one, or about 80% of the market. “We expect one-third of that initially,” he said.

Pastor said the Fox Inc. project was launched now because Latin America “has emerged as a very important market, both economically and politically in a macro sense, not just in this business.”

He added that Fox also wantedto “wait until the cable market was developed to the point it is now.”

Pastor acknowledged that Fox has competition from TNT and the recently announced HBOle and others, but said: “You won’t find anything like our schedule in Latin America.”

Fox will feature films ranging from “Die Hard 2” and “Home Alone” to “How to Marry a Millionaire” and “The French Connection” and series such as “The Simpsons,””L.A. Law” and “MASH.”

Pastor noted that “soft news” and sports specials may be added.

Pastor declined to give exact numbers, but said the investment was substantial and that Fox “expects (it) to turn into the black in a few years if all goes well, and perhaps even sooner if it goes better than our conservative projections.”

Pastor said Fox expects revenues from subscribers and affiliates will eventually be augmented by regional advertising revenues. “But we don’t have a full sense of what ad revenues will be,” he said.

Pastor said the team hired to execute the new channel reflects the region’s ethnicity. “Our key people are of Latino origin or are multilingual,” said Pastor.

Mexican-born Concepcion Lara ankled from HBOle to become VP of the Fox Latin American Channel and will oversee programming, on-air promotions and marketing.

Tom Cook — who has been with Fox since 1990 working on international legal matters — has been named director of business affairs for the channel.

Kathleen Bedoya ankled from HBOle to become Fox’s manager of marketing and publicity.

Nely Galan and her staff from Tropix Media Inc. have been hired to develop and produce original on-air promos, graphics and interstitials for the channels.

A all-day preview of the channel begins on July 31 and will air for two weeks prior to the launch.

Lara said Fox is using Latin America as a test to see if Fox would consider launching a similar Spanish-lingo channel in the U.S. for the “underserviced Hispanic community in the United States.”

For the time being, most programming will be transmitted via PanAm satellites out of Miami to Latin America.

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