NEW YORK Comcast Corp, the cable and entertainment company, is making a major push into Spanish-language TV with plans to roll out a website featuring hundreds of shows and movies for Hispanic audiences.
Comcast's plans allow its digital subscribers -- wherever they are -- to log into a website where they can pick from more than 500 Hispanic movies and shows from partners including Univision, Cine Mexicano, Gran Cine, Caracol TV, Discovery Familia.
At stake is a rapidly growing segment of the TV audience that, for the largest U.S. cable company, represents a critical subscriber base in places such as Chicago, Houston, South Florida and California, said Marcien Jenckes, general manager of Comcast Video Services.
"We're fully committed to the Hispanic market," he said in an interview. "This is almost a doubling down on top of a series of investments that have taken place over the years."
The idea of tapping into the Spanish-language market is hardly a novel idea, with media companies aware that the Hispanic community is among the largest audience groups in the United States.
But the Hispanic audience is even more important these days, with cable and broadcast television feeling the pressure of audience fragmentation. Spanish-language Univision, with its prime-time roster of soap operas, often draws nearly as many young viewers as broadcast networks ABC, CBS, Fox and Comcast-controlled NBC -- and sometimes more.
Comcast itself carries more than 50 of the most popular Hispanic networks, including Telemundo, the Spanish-language network it controls due to its NBC Universal deal. Telemundo reaches 94 percent of U.S. Hispanic viewers.
Jenckes said Comcast's plan calls for "huge improvements and increases in Spanish language content" that it offers subscribers. Along with the expanded website, Comcast has tripled the number of Hispanic television choices available On Demand to about 700.
"Behind the scenes we've been working on a series on initiatives. We feel as though there is a now sufficient critical mass to launch," he said in an interview. "That 700 is on its way to 7,000 which is on its way to 70,000,"
At a new location within Comcast's existing XfinityTV.com website, customers will be asked to sign in with an ID and password. They can then click the "Espanol" button.
To promote the site, Comcast has hired Sofia Vergara, star of the ABC comedy "Modern Family." She will soon start appearing in a television campaign in Spanish.
(Reporting by Paul Thomasch; Editing by Gary Hill)