MTV'S New Hispanic Networks to Be Called TR3S

Former MTV Español Becomes Bilingual Network in Fourth Quarter

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NEW YORK ( -- After a year and a half working on what MTV's U.S. Latino-targeted offering would be, Lucia Ballas-Traynor and MTV Music Television President Christina Norman announced MTV Español is turning into MTV TR3S -- pronounced tres.
Lucia Ballas-Traynor said MTV's new bilingual Hispanic Network hopes to reach 5.5 million households.

The bilingual network will launch in fourth quarter with a goal of being in 50% of Hispanic households -- about 5.5 million -- using the hybrid cable-satellite-broadcast distribution model employed by other Hispanic-targeted networks such as Univision, Telemundo and Azteca America. Wireless and broadband distribution components are also part of the plan, using some of MTV's already developed online and wireless properties, such as MTV Overdrive, said Ms. Ballas-Traynor, the network's general manager.

MTV TR3S will target 12- to 34-year-olds with pop-, urban- and rock-music programming. It also plans to add lifestyle series and news documentaries about U.S. Latinos. When Spanish is spoken on the network, English subtitles will be provided.

Fast-growing demo
Ms. Ballas-Traynor was brought on in to figure out the best way to build the network's profile among young Hispanics, who compose the fastest growing U.S. demographic segment. Ms. Ballas-Traynor came to Viacom from Galavision, which had experimented in youth-targeted programming before eschewing it in favor of less expensive Mexican imports. Other networks -- Mun2 and SiTV -- have sought to take advantage of the fast-growing young Hispanic demo by offering English or bilingual programming that appeals to U.S. born Hispanics.

"The Hispanic youth audience is not only leading the most important demographic changes in this country, they're also heavily influencing the pop-culture landscape," said Ms. Norman as she announced the network.

For MTV, which is often regarded as the top youth-oriented media brand, growing a strong U.S. Hispanic-targeted network seems like it should be second nature -- especially with the success it has had with MTV Latin America. (Already it has launched MTV Chi and MTV Desi, aimed at Chinese- and Indian-Americans, respectively.) But it's taken the network years to figure out exactly how it wanted to enter the U.S. Hispanic market. Until now, MTV Español, which was launched in 1998, has been a rebroadcast of MTV Latin America, reaching 3.1 million Hispanic households. Part of the problem was figuring out whether a channel targeting U.S. Latinos should indeed be in Spanish or whether it should be in English. Turns out, it will broadcast in both.

The decision is a reflection of current U.S. Hispanic population shifts. In the 1990s, Ms. Ballas-Traynor noted, foreign-born immigration has been supplanted by U.S. births as the primary source of Hispanic growth, leading to an increase in acculturated Hispanics, which are likely to be bilingual, often consuming English-language media but still thinking and feeling in Spanish. According to a McKinsey & Co. study, "acculturated" will describe more than 67% of Hispanics in 2010.

Sweet spot
"When you look at foreign born population, the median age is 35," she said. "The median age of U.S. born population is 18. And our sweet spot is 12-24, of which at least 70% is U.S. born."

Another issue was trying to find executives who understood both the Hispanic and the youth markets, said Ms. Ballas-Traynor. It's a challenge similar to the ones American marketers are facing when trying to decide whether they need a Hispanic ad agency -- especially when they’re advertising to Hispanic youths in English. Right now, MTV TR3S executives are in Los Angeles to meet with Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies members at a gathering that starts Wednesday night.

"They've been waiting for an audience like this," Ms. Ballas-Traynor said, noting automotive, retail and soft drinks are key ad categories.

The channel is likely to have crossover appeal, although the priority in the near term will be to build a solid brand against its target. Ms. Ballas-Traynor said a typical Top 20 music video countdown could include Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, Mariah Carey, 50 Cent and Gwen Stefani.

"They don't look at the hits Spanish vs. English," she said. "It's the chart topper first and then it's about language, which organically fits into that."

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