Cisneros preps bid for Colombia TV

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MEXICO CITY -- Venezuela's Cisneros Group has joined a growing list of Spanish-language media giants set to participate in a bidding war for a coveted new private television channel in Colombia.

Gustavo Cisneros, chairman and chief executive of the Cisneros Group, said that his company will partner with Colombian businessman Luis Carlos Sarmiento in a bid for a license to operate the new network.

Sarmiento, one of Colombia's richest men, made his fortune in telecommunications, real estate development and banking.

The Colombian government expects to issue the broadcast license in September and the channel will hit the airwaves in 2009. The third national network will provide sorely needed competition against Caracol and RCN TV, Colombia's powerful television duopoly.

Cisneros will make a bid within a few weeks.

"It gives me great pleasure to participate in this process, which is why we just met in Bogota with the board of the National Television Commission of Colombia," Cisneros said in a statement.

The company did not disclose financial details.

The Cisneros Group, which sells programming to more than 90 countries, owns or holds interests in companies ranging from broadcast television and television production to telecommunications.

The auction for the channel has drawn interest from top international players, including Mexican media powerhouse Televisa, Spain's Grupo Prisa and publishing company Planeta. Also in the mix is Telemundo's Colombian production partner RTI and Miami-based Grupo Angel Gonzalez, according to Cisneros.

Due to media ownership restrictions, foreign suitors must seek Colombian partners.

Given the international success of popular Colombian soaps, such as the original "Ugly Betty" format and "Without Breasts There is no Paradise," Spanish-language media companies are eager to enter a market that is producing content that travels well abroad.
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