U.S.' FIRST NATIONAL SPANISH RADIO NET READIED FOR LAUNCH: UNICA TO FEATURE WORLD CUP COVERAGE IN '98

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Longtime Hispanic TV executive Joaquin F. Blaya has changed his medium, with plans to launch the U.S.' first national Spanish-language radio network.

Radio Unica, a planned Miami-based network of owned, leased and affiliated stations, will debut in December with 24 hours of live news, talk and sports content daily, said Mr. Blaya, a former senior executive with the Univision and Telemundo TV networks.

The network will provide hourly news briefs and other news programming from CBS TeleNoticias.

WILL CARRY WORLD CUP

Radio Unica should get a big startup boost from its status as the sole U.S. Hispanic radio carrier of the 1998 World Cup soccer matches from France. Coverage will begin with the matching up of teams for the tournament on Dec. 4, and end after the 64 games scheduled to be played in June and July.

Advertisers will find favorable market coverage in U.S. Hispanic regions, Mr. Blaya said. He is guaranteeing the 60 stations he expects to have signed when the games begin next summer to provide 80% market coverage.

Since Radio Unica and its affiliate stations will carry all the programming live, the matches played in the afternoon and evening will air live in the U.S. during early morning and afternoon drive-time periods., Mr. Blaya said.

MONEYGRAM IS 1ST SPONSOR

Title sponsorships run up to $1.75 million for complete event coverage, and include 2,760 spots or announcements during the event. The first advertiser to sign on is MoneyGram Payment Systems, as a title sponsor.

Spanish-language radio provides an important cultural tie to first- and second-generation Hispanics, said Tony Dieste, principal with Dieste & Partners, a Dallas-based Hispanic ad shop. Any company that provides a national reach for marketers seeking the U.S. Hispanic market will be filling a "huge void," he said.

'EXPENSIVE PROPOSITION'

However, acquiring the rights to the World Cup, acquiring or leasing stations, hiring staff and maintaining the network's exposure once the games have finished in July will be "an expensive proposition," said Ramon Pineda, president of Caballero Spanish Media, a New York-based radio rep company.

Also, some Radio Unica markets are likely to have strongly performing Hispanic stations already, Mr. Pineda said. "It's not as if you don't have competition already. You have monstrous competition from other stations playing music and doing an extremely successful job," he said.

An ad campaign, created in-house, will begin running in December in print,

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