Azteca nabs Chile channel

No. 2 Mexican broadcaster continues Central, South American onslaught

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s No. 2 broadcaster announced last week it plans to purchase a majority stake in the Chilean channel known as La Red.

TV Azteca has signed a letter of intent to acquire a 75% stake in La Red for $10.3 million.

La Red broadcasts on Channel 4 in the capital of Santiago and its signal reaches close to 85% of Chile’s 14 million TV viewers, TV Azteca said.

“With our acquisition in Chile, TV Azteca is broadening its broadcast reach and increasing our share of the enormous Spanish-speaking television ad market,” said Azteca topper Ricardo Salinas Pliego. “Controlling the widest possible distribution allows us to maximize the returns from our internally produced programming.” TV ad spend in Chile is close to $300 million, Azteca said.

As recently as October, Salinas Pliego told Daily Variety that any expansion to South America would likely wait until late next year — unless an attractive opportunity came up — given that the broadcaster was busy with Central American acquisitions.

TV Azteca already owns and operates broadcasters in El Salvador and Guatemala, and is in talks to buy additional channels in another five Central American and Caribbean nations.

Ownership of foreign stations is a policy that Azteca’s bigger rival Televisa has retreated from in recent years, preferring to supply programming to affiliates in exchange for 10-15% of their total ad coin.

Salinas Pliego believes direct ownership can work with the right management.

Channel ownership also dovetails with Salinas Pliego’s plans to expand his retail interests (his family owns and operates two major Mexican chains of stores) and paging company. As these businesses move southward, they can count on generous ad time from their owner’s stations.

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