MTV in Latin makeover

Cabler to relaunch Spanish-language channel

MTV will relaunch its Spanish-language MTV Espanol in the fourth quarter to target bicultural Latinos ages 12-34. Channel will be rechristened MTV Tr3s (pronounced tres, for MTV Three).

At the helm is general manager Lucia Ballas-Traynor, who joined MTV last March in the then-newly created position of general manager for MTV Espanol and VHUno, the group’s U.S. Hispanic nets.

Ballas-Traynor reports to MTV prexy Christina Norman.

Revamp comes after a year of market research that indicated young Latinos, particularly the U.S. born, are underserved, Ballas-Traynor said.

Telemundo-owned mun2 (mundos or worlds) already came to similar conclusions. Under Antoinette Zel, former prexy of MTV Networks Latin America, mun2 has been revamping programming for the same demographic. Zel, senior exec VP for network strategy at Telemundo, moved mun2 from Miami to Los Angeles and has recruited MTV Latin America staffers.

MTV prexy Christina Norman noted that U.S. viewership has changed over the years. Norman said MTV wanted to “super-serve” youth audiences, pointing to other niche channels MTV Desi, targeting South Asians in the U.S. and launched last July, and MTV Chi, for Chinese-Americans, which bowed in December.

Music programming will be the core of MTV Tr3s, Ballas-Traynor said, with an emphasis on pop, urban and rock genres.

But MTV plans to introduce lifestyle series, adapt music formats and produce documentaries showcasing the culture and lifestyle of U.S. Latinos for MTV Tr3s.

Heading up the revamped channel’s music programming and artist relations is Jose Tillan, a longtime exec who expands his portfolio beyond Latin America. He remains senior VP of music and talent relations for MTV Networks Latin America, which encompasses MTV, VH1 and Nickelodeon in Spanish-speaking countries and in Brazil.

MTV director of news and development Lily Neumeyer moves over to MTV Tr3s as its VP of programming and production. Her recent productions include “My Super Sweet 16” and the upcoming “MTV Juvies.”

During a conference call, Ballas-Traynor said MTV Tr3s would tap into the resources of the MTV group in the U.S. and Latin America for programming, production and access to talent.

MTV will pursue carriage on cablers and satcasters while also seeking broadcast station outlets.

Launched in August 1998, the MTV Espanol channel reaches 13 million homes, of which 3.1 million are U.S. Hispanic households. The flagship MTV net is in 88 million homes; MTV2, launched in 1996, is in 60 million.

Spanish-language VHUno is in a mere 4 million households, of which 600,000 are Hispanic. Norman said no changes are planned for the channel. However, a spokeswoman said that once MTV Tr3s is up and running, the group will re-evaluate what to do with that net.

Language will be a mix for MTV Tr3s. “It will be driven by the programming,” Ballas-Traynor said, be it Spanish (with subtitles), English or a mix.

Norman insisted that MTV Tr3s will not cannibalize viewers from the flagship MTV feevee. She said past additions to the MTV family of channels “contribute to the overall time spent within the MTV brand.”

As distribution grows, Ballas-Traynor expects to add video-on-demand content to MTV Tr3s. Norman said she envisions a broadband net and sees opportunities for wireless content and applications.