New television station aims at Venezuelan expats

With the migration waves of Venezuelans to South Florida, a group of entrepreneurs are betting that television is a good investment, aware of a captive audience of Venezuelan viewers who long for their beloved homeland.

In late summer, Telecaribe Miami will make its debut on local digital broadcast television. The station borrows its name from Telecaribe Venezuela, a regional TV network based in eastern Puerto La Cruz.

Three years ago, brothers Enrique and Bernardo Gómez sold their shares in Telecaribe Venezuela and moved their capital to create the new enterprise in Miami. Along with other Venezuelan investors, they have amassed $4 million to buy equipment, build studios in Doral, hire personnel and lease the broadcast signal on WDFL-LD Channel 12.2, a digital channel owned by Paramount Broadcasting Communications. It is broadcast from Cutler Bay to the southern strip of Palm Beach County.

“We want to appeal to the nostalgia of Venezuelans in South Florida and keep their roots alive,” said Bernardo Gómez, the station’s executive vice president. “That’s the strategy: to appeal to the Venezuelan identity.”

Although the Venezuelan audience is one of the station’s priorities, the programming will be community-based for all Hispanics, with a special emphasis on family television. The station’s motto: Telecaribe Miami somos todos (Telecaribe Miami are all of us).

The channel will have its own news department, which will mainly cover the news in Doral and Hialeah. This will give it a pronounced community prominence in northwest Miami-Dade County.

Several previous efforts by Venezuelan entrepreneurs to create TV stations in South Florida have failed, even after multimillion investments. In those cases, they had little knowledge of the television industry and the complex local market.

“We are aware that there is a risk,” Bernardo Gómez acknowledged.

Overall, the Spanish-language television industry is South Florida is becoming even more competitive with so many small channels that is hard to keep count because many open and close in a short period of time, and some, of course, prevail.

The owners of two local channels, the former GenTV and Telemiami, have hit the jackpot in recent months by signing affiliation agreements with MundoFox Broadcasting and CNN Latino, respectively.

“The constant influx of Latin Americans into the Miami market always generates the interest of people who think that they can serve their interest in a different manner and television is obviously not strange to that,” said Joaquin Blaya, a pioneer of Spanish-language television in the U.S. and chairman of Blaya Media, a Miami-based television production company.

To launch Telecaribe Miami, the Gomezes hired as general manager the Cuban actor and producer Tony Cortés, who made a name for himself with his performance and productions on three local Spanish-language channels: America TeVe, Mega TV and Telemiami.

According to Cortez, Telecaribe will produce between 8 and 12 hours of original programming a day, including entertainment, games, comedies, children’s programs, interviews and debates.

“We don’t want to limit ourselves to known faces,” the manager said, explaining that the programs will use some new talent, including several Venezuelan hosts.

The rest of the content will come from abroad. Specifically, the Gomezes plan to buy canned programs from Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV), the dean of Venezuelan TV, that have not yet aired in this market. The new company will also purchase independent productions from Colombia.

To reinforce their news programming, they are negotiating alliances with municipal coverage media such as Doral News, the executives said.

Like many other Venezuelan entrepreneurs, the Gomezes left Venezuela because of the endemic personal insecurity and the constant deterioration of the national economy.

“Regional television in Venezuela has no more billing. It has set records for low advertising investments,” said Bernardo Gómez, a former Caracas-based telecommunications executive for multinational companies.

In 2011, the brothers decided to bring their families to Florida and resettle in Pembroke Pines and Doral. Instead of applying for visas as investors, they opted for an Intracompany Transferee visas through a construction company in Venezuela that is still owned by their family.

Once here, they concluded that there is a niche in the local TV market, primarily because of the dearth of content for Venezuelans on the small screen. Besides, they felt that in many instances the programming of existing stations was “inappropriate due to its high level of vulgarity,” in the words of Bernardo Gómez.

“We want to offer a wholly family-oriented programming,” he promised.

At first, transmission will be made over the air only. Once the programming grid is ready, the executives plan to offer the new channel to cable companies, including Comcast, which has the largest penetration in South Florida.

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