Estrella TV launches today


It’s not often that a new broadcast television network launches, so today, Monday, September 14, 2009, is a date to remember. And despite launching in a recession, LBI Media has high hopes for Estrella TV.

When we reported on plans for the new Spanish network back in January, LBI was just beginning to negotiate affiliation deals. In addition to its seven O&Os (including a soon-to be built Phoenix station) LBI has now signed affiliates in 17 markets (18, since Titan’s KTNC-TV covers both the San Francisco and Sacramento markets). In all it is launching with coverage of nearly 70% of the US Hispanic population.

The network launch was timed to follow the DTV transition. Rather than the usual network start-up scenario of recruiting weak signals and rim-shot stations outside the main population center of a market, LBI was able to focus on pitching top operators to carry Estrella TV on their digital multicast channels. Thus, it has multiple stations from Belo, Hearst and Communications Corporation of America in its affiliate list. Its most recent block-buster was a deal to have Tribune’s WPIX-TV New York carry Estrella on a multicast channel.

As a result, LBI COO Winter Horton told RBR/TVBR that cable carriage is also going well. “Part of the strategy of going with the bigger companies is that they tend to have better leverage with the cable companies and we’ve been able to get on cable in all of our markets – and are actually in the process of upgrading our channel position in a lot of our markets as well,” he said. “It’s been a great reception from the cable companies. I think they recognize the value of the programming and they want viewers just like everybody else does,” Horton added.

What sets Estrella TV apart from its main competitors in US Spanish television is that it produces its own programming – 56 hours of new programming each week. Most of that is produced at LBI’s studio complex in Burbank, CA.

Primetime programming is stripped, with top programs airing Monday-Friday. But Estrella has deliberately counter-programmed the other Spanish networks by passing on novelas.

Here are descriptions of some of the primary shows:

“Estudio 2” is the most ambitious new musical variety show in Spanish-language television. Famous Hispanic musical groups and artists perform hit songs everyday in a multi-stage private studio surrounded by their fans in a multi million dollar set. In addition to music superstars, “Estudio 2” features a talent contest that is decided by the live studio audience. “Estudio 2” also brings the funniest comedians from Latin America and to perform live. “Estudio 2” is purely contemporary, fast-paced, adrenaline-pumping entertainment where no two Shows are ever alike.

“A Que No Puedes” is an exciting new program where celebrities win big money for their favorite charities. Featuring the comedic talents of Carlos Eduardo Rico and the quick wit of Jorge (“El Burro”) Van Rankin and Edson (“El Norteno”) Zuniga, “A Que No Puedes” is one of Estrella TV’s most successful internally created and produced television shows.

“Los Chuperamigos” is an ensemble of Mexico’s most famous comedic actors and writers delivering a completely original half-hour sitcom. LBI attracted six of the most popular comedic actors ever assembled to create this hilarious program. This Incredible cast includes: Liliana Arriaga “la Chupitos”; Luis De Alba, Alejandro Suarez, Martha Ofelia Galindo, Maribel Fernandez “La Pelangocha” and Carlos Bonavides “Huicho Dominguez”. This production effort is put together by the famous actor, writer and producer Jose Suarez.

“Secretos”, Estrella TV’s hottest scripted drama, just turned up the heat for this fall. Now every action-packed “mini-novela” episode features huge guest stars straight from Mexico. Like all of Estrella TV’s scripted shows, the very best writers and producers from the biggest shows in Mexico are behind the cameras creating compelling original scripts and outstanding production values.

“José Luis Sin Censura” is a fast-paced talk show hosted by José Luis Gonzalez, a popular TV personality who created and hosted “Quién Tiene La Razón, and hosted “La Corte de Familia”. José Luis has produced more than one thousand talk show episodes in his career. His straight forward style and on-camera demeanor have made him a talk show phenomenon. “José Luis Sin Censura” features emotionally-charged topics that touch on interpersonal relationships, human adversities, and real life events. José Luis confronts everyday issues in a direct and compelling manner while attempting to harness the emotions of his guests.

LBI is not being shy about taking on the competition. Citing the highest ratings ever for O&O flagship KRCA-TV Los Angeles, Horton said the goal is to quickly become the #2 (or at least #3) Spanish outlet in every market, yielding only to giant Univision. The target demo is 18-49 and Horton noted that the programming does particularly well 25-54.

The COO has just completed negotiations with Nielsen for national network ratings, so we’ll soon be tracking Estrella’s progress in RBR/TVBR.