Comcast and TV and Communications and Media & Marketing and Diversity

Spanish-language news program finds home after cancellation

June 8, 2009

The familiar face of a local Hispanic television newscast is back on the air, less than six months after the parent of WISH-TV Channel 8 pulled the plug on him.

But perhaps even more impressive than the speedy return is the array of loyal advertisers, including one of the city's largest public companies, that stuck by the fledgling program.

Marco Dominguez returned April 30 to the television airwaves from a makeshift studio within his new office on North Senate Avenue, and by Memorial Day had settled into a finished set there.

The 54-year-old Venezuelan found another outlet for his newscast on a Comcast on-demand channel after WISH parent LIN TV Corp. couldn't reach a new agreement in December with national Hispanic network Univision.

Dominguez had broadcast on WISH's sister station WIIH-TV Channel 17, which featured Univision programming. He also served as its station manager and co-anchor. That station now broadcasts local weather forecasts.

Thanks to about a dozen corporate and small business advertisers, in addition to a core group of investors, Dominguez again is delivering the news to the city's Hispanic population.

His ability to attract heavyweights such as Eli Lilly and Co. and KeyBank underscores the clout he wields and the heft Hispanics now carry with companies eager to reach the community, experts say.

The U.S. Census Bureau pegs their numbers in Indianapolis at 40,000, but advocates say 150,000 is more accurate. Hispanics nationwide are projected to spend $1 trillion in 2010.

"There is a lot of potential for local companies to serve Hispanics," said Roberto Curci, a Butler University professor of finance. "And because of the economy, it is a tough time for companies. Targeting Hispanics might be a solution."

Dominguez expects revenue for IndyVisionTV, the company he recently founded, to reach high six figures this year. Achieving that will hinge on attracting more advertisers by expanding the broadcasts to include community programming from other cities throughout the state.

He's also exploring programming that would teach both English and Spanish as a second language.

The task will be daunting, particularly without the resources he enjoyed from WISH the past six years, acknowledged Dominguez.

"This is tough," he said. "It's a business at work."

Indianapolis via Venezuela

Dominguez arrived in Indiana in 1980, armed with a Venezuelan government scholarship to attend Vincennes University. He ultimately earned a bachelor's degree in radio and television production from Butler.

He returned to Venezuela in 1984, founded a production company and taught a television production class before helping start a TV station on the nearby island of Bonaire. Unsatisfied after two years there, his wife suggested they move. Dominguez ruled out Venezuela, so they decided to move here.

After arriving in March 1993, he began work on a master's degree in telecom arts at Butler while working at the campus television station, WTBU-TV Channel 69. He rose to executive producer and, in 2002, approached WISH about selling him air time for a Spanish television show he was producing on which he interviewed Hispanic guests.

The conversations ultimately led Dominguez to resign from Butler to begin his affiliation with WISH. His newscasts aired at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Channel 17, which is carried on Comcast's channel 18 and Brighthouse's channel 44.

Dominguez recalled his shock in December when WISH notified him that it would no longer air his newscast.

"Economically, it was doing well," he said. "Maybe not what was expected, but it was doing well."

WISH General Manager Jeff White described the situation as "unfortunate" and said the station and Dominguez enjoyed a "great partnership."

Courting Hispanics

Sitting in his company's new office in a building near the Stutz Business Center, Dominguez can be excused for becoming misty-eyed as he recalled how his skeleton crew wept after completing its first newscast.

Besides co-anchor Veronica Millan, his staff consists of three production people, an administrative assistant and two part-time sales associates.

They tape the half-hour show at 9 a.m. Monday through Friday followed by a 30-minute interview segment featuring a prominent member of the Hispanic community. Each day's newscast is available to view on demand for the next 72 hours.

Dominguez, who is the broadcast's lone news-gatherer, has partnerships with The Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis Recorder and La Ola Latino Americana newspapers, and WTHR-TV Channel 13 that allow him to report their stories. He also has a deal with the El Universal Mexican paper.

Cleveland-based KeyBank, Indianapolis' eighth-largest bank in terms of full-time employees, is grateful for Dominguez's return. It hired Patricia Castaneda in September as its first manager of Latino affairs for central Indiana and had planned to advertise, just before WISH and Dominguez parted ways.

Part of KeyBank's strategy is to court Hispanics, who often are distrustful of banks, by educating them that it's indeed safe to deposit their paychecks, Castaneda said.

"As the station develops and our marketing plan develops," she said, "we're going to be seeing a lot more of a long-term relationship."

Lilly is wrapping its advertising around short Spanish-language health care segments Dominguez purchases. The pharmaceutical giant has no control over the pieces, which provide education on diseases such as diabetes.

"For us, we need to understand as much as we can about that population," said Patty Martin, Lilly vice president of global diversity. "Not just to communicate and advertise, but for them to understand what our medicines are about."

For Dominguez to lure additional advertisers to his broadcasts, Comcast must get more Hispanics to subscribe to the cable service and then direct them to the newscasts, said Russ Dodge, general manager of local radio stations WEDJ-FM 107.1 and WSYW-AM 810, which broadcast in Spanish.

Cable and satellite television providers increasingly are vying for the Hispanic audience by offering packaged programming targeting the population.

Comcast courted Dominguez after concluding it would lose an opportunity by not making his newscast available, said Mark Apple, the cable company's regional vice president of public relations. It plans to roll out a marketing campaign this week to alert the Hispanic population about its affiliation with Dominguez.

While broadcasting on an on-demand channel may not carry the prestige of an affiliation with an actual television station, Dominguez is upbeat about his prospects.

"Video on demand is the TV of the future," he said. "It's when you want to see it, and how you want to see it."

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