Televisa forms Latin American alliance

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MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's Televisa has formed a pan-Latin broadcast alliance with representatives from 17 other nations. The group met formally for the first time last week in the resort city of Cancun and later held a press conference.

The members of the Latin alliance met behind closed doors for a series of working sessions on such topics as co-productions, technology exchanges, programming, special events and news.

Most of the participants are already Televisa affiliates or enjoy a close relationship with the media giant. Colombian broadcaster RCN, for example, buys a limited number of Televisa shows because local laws demand that 65% of all programming be nationally produced. Other member broadcasters include Brazil's SBT, Venevision in Venezuela and Argentina's Telefe.

The main news of the Cancun meeting was the creation of a one-way deal for the broadcasters to send 10 to 15 minutes daily of their news footage to feed Televisa's pay-TV all-news channel ECO.

ECO and other pay-TV channels produced by Televisa have been restructured under the new direction of long-time Televisa exec Jose Luis Guasch, who will try to expand distribution particularly for ECO. Modeled on CNN, ECO was the world's first international Spanish-language news network, but has been losing money for 10 years.

"There hasn't been marketing, there hasn't been promotion," for ECO, said Televisa head Emilio Azcarraga Jean.

Now the channel will get free news reports from around the region and the other broadcasters will get on-air credit and therefore some international publicity, Azcarraga Jean said.

Whether the Argentines or Chilenos give a hoot about news from Panama or Paraguay remains to be seen.

In a second stage, Azcarraga Jean said, Televisa will try to restructure its recently-signed distribution deal with ABC subsidiary World Television News to include material from the other broadcasters and to give them a cut of revenue.

Televisa had previously talked of converting ECO into a news agency. An earlier plan was to source an hour of daily news from each of a dozen or so Latino broadcasters and package this material with ECO's own as four daily half-hour feeds, for sale to anyone who was interested.

Televisa executives are also working on a financial restructuring of the heavily indebted Televicentro, the holding company that unites Televisa's principal family investors, and of Televisa itself, Azcarraga Jean said. A new sales plan that will replace the so-called upfront "French Plan" will be announced in the next five to six weeks.

Copyright July 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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