- Associated Press - Friday, January 6, 2017

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico PBS, a public television station in a state with the largest percentage of Hispanic residents, is dropping Spanish-language TV channel Vme from its lineup due to low ratings and amid continued struggles by media companies to reach Latino audiences.

The move comes as Vme TV - the first and only Spanish broadcast television network associated with public television stations - recently announced it was transitioning to commercial cable over the next year.

New Mexico PBS marketing manager Michael Privett said after seven years, Vme TV never caught on in the Albuquerque area despite the region’s large Latino population.

“I’m surprised by that but it just never took off for whatever reason,” Privett said.

New Mexico PBS is replacing Vme TV with a new 24-hour PBS Kids Channel, and Privett said station officials believe that new project will attract Hispanic audiences on air and online.

A spokeswoman listed on the website for Vme TV said her firm no longer represented the station. A message sent to Vme TV through its Facebook page was not immediately returned.

Launched in 2007 to much fanfare, Miami-based Vme TV broadcast in more than 40 markets and partners with WNET in New York. The 24-hour network promised to offer entertaining and educational programming aimed at Spanish-speaking families.

Vme officials announced last month that the network was phasing out multicast service for public television as contracts with PBS affiliates were set to expire.

Jesse Holcomb, associate director of journalism research at the Pew Research Center, said recent data show some Spanish-language television outlets have seen declining viewership while others have seen slight increases. But overall Hispanics, like the general population, are moving to streaming service for media consumption, affecting viewership of Spanish-language television stations.

“Also, some of the efforts in recent years to tap into the Hispanic digital market have faltered,” Holcomb said.

Richard Pineda, director of the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso, said Spanish-language television stations outside of markets with large immigrant populations face challenges because Mexican Americans are many generations removed from their immigrant parents.

That’s the population in places like Albuquerque and a growing number of other Latino cities, he said.

“Broadly speaking, they have cultural affinity, not language affinity,” Pineda said. “They won’t understand what’s on a total exclusive Spanish-speaking station.”


Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at https://twitter.com/russcontreras . His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/russell-contreras .

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