Billionaire Carlos Slim’s wireless carrier America Movil (AMXL) SAB is funding an online TV network that will star former CNN talk-show host Larry King.
Ora.tv, based in New York, is led by Jon Housman, formerly News Corp.’s president of digital journalism, according to the company’s website. Programming will start later this year, the company said. It didn’t say how much America Movil is investing.
Slim, the world’s richest person according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, is expanding his media properties as America Movil increases its presence in the pay-TV business. The Mexico City-based company has the most cable and satellite subscribers in Latin America, with more than 13 million, mostly in Brazil.
“The viewers are really there for digital viewing writ large,” Chief Executive Officer Housman said today in a telephone interview. “There’s a further influx of advertisers who have spent some amount of time on the sidelines and are now looking for opportunities in the space.”
Ora.tv will not charge a subscription fee and will be wholly dependent on online advertising for revenue, Housman said.
Companies such as Hulu LLC that carry video content online have shown that ads can be lucrative when the programming is original, said Tony Wible, a Philadelphia-based analyst who covers media companies for Janney Montgomery Scott LLC.
“One of the challenges you find in Internet-delivered TV is how to promote originals,” Wible said in a telephone interview. “It’s hard enough to do on TV, where you have a captive audience.”
Housman, 43, has experience putting together distribution partnerships and developing strategies with high-profile talent, said Jonathan Miller, CEO of digital operations at News Corp. (NWSA), where he worked with Housman for three years.
“It’s still the early days where everyone is trying to figure out what models to follow, how to build an audience in a new way,” Miller said, commenting on the online TV sector. “We’re still in the pioneering, Oklahoma land-rush stage of web-video development.”
In October, America Movil agreed to buy DLA Inc., then a unit of Claxson Interactive Group Inc., to gain video content such as pay-per-view movies for Internet and mobile devices. Since then, the company has begun offering an online-video rental service in Argentina and Uruguay.
America Movil is considering starting a similar online- video-rental service in Mexico, where the company is banned from using its network to offer traditional TV, a person familiar with the company’s strategy said earlier this month.
Slim, 72, also has stakes through an investment company in two newspaper publishers, New York Times Co. (NYT) and Promotora de Informaciones SA.
Ora, which means “now” in Italian, will offer programming for mobile phones, tablets and Internet-enabled televisions in addition to computers, the company said. Shows will be available on demand and will have production quality similar to traditional TV, it said. Some segments will be as short as three minutes.
“The team brings the talent and industry understanding that will help Ora stand out in digital television, a category which is primed for exponential growth,” Slim said in a statement on the company’s website.
King, 78, was a Miami media personality who gained fame across the U.S. with a radio show broadcast from 1978 to 1994, according to a biography on the website of CNN, the 24-hour news network owned by Time Warner Inc. (TWX) “Larry King Live” first aired on CNN in 1985 and became the network’s highest-rated program with a mix of interviews with political figures such as President Barack Obama and celebrities including George Clooney. King gave up that show in 2010.
“He’s a magnet for talent,” Housman said. “He’s got access to the leading voices around the world, from political leaders to entertainers.”
In 2010, King spoke in Mexico City to winners of scholarships granted by a foundation led by Slim. The billionaire was one of the final guests on King’s CNN program later that year. In 2011, King was a guest at the opening of Slim’s Mexico City art museum.
The New York Times reported on Ora.tv yesterday.
America Movil dropped 0.9 percent to 14.80 pesos at the close in Mexico City. The shares have fallen 6.4 percent this year.
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