NEW YORK, July 31 -- Hearst Corp. challenged Turner Broadcasting System's hold on TV's cartoon audience Wednesday by launching a cartoon channel in Latin America that eventually may be available in the United States. Hearst has linked up with the Cisneros Group of Cos. Venezuela to launch one of its most ambitious network ventures, according to Frank A. Bennack Jr., president of Hearst Corp., which is a partner in the Lifetime, Arts and Entertainment, and History Channel cable networks. Bennack said Locomotion, the joint venture with Cisneros, will provide 24-hour all-animated programming in Spanish, Portuguese and English via satellite to subscribers in 23 Latin American and Caribbean countries. Service is scheduled to begin this fall. Other Hearst executives said it is likely that Locomotion eventually will be offered to U.S. subscribers, competing with Turner's cable Cartoon Network for viewers and advertisers. The Cartoon Network has 28 million U.S. subscribers and already is established in Latin America where it has 6.1 million subscribers. Locomotion programming will draw on Hearst's vast library of cartoon series syndicated by its King Features subsidiary, Bennack said. These series include such cartoon classics as 'Krazy Kat,' 'Popeye,' and 'Beetle Bailey,' but are mostly cartoons produced in the past three years such as 'Prince Valiant,' 'Phantom 2020,' and 'Quasimodo,' a new series based on Victor Hugo's novel, 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame.' A new 'Flash Gordon,' series is scheduled to debut this fall. Programming also will include such action cartoons as 'G-Force,' 'Galaxy Rangers' and 'Defenders of the Earth.'
Bennack said Hearst will buy rights to additional animated shows for the service and plans to produce more cartoon programs of its own. 'We believe we have the right product and the right partner to satsify the strong appetite for a channel which programs cutting-edge animation 24 hours a day,' Bennack said. 'The Latin American television is growing dramatically and offers us attractive opportunities for distribution of our extensive animation library.' Turner's Cartoon Network began operating 24 hours a day in 1993 and has subscribers in 170 countries. It draws on Turner's vast animated film library including Hanna Barbera productions and the backlog of Warner and MGM cartoons it acquired with the purchase of those studios' film libraries. The power behind the Cisneros Group is Venezuelan entrepreneur Carlos Cisneros, whose ventures include Univision, the largest Spanish-language network in the United States, Venevision, the largest producer of Spanish-language television programming in South America, and Venevision International, a major distributor of Spanish programs throughout the world. Hearst and Capital Cities/ABC own Lifetime as equal partners and Hearst has a sizeable financial interest in ESPN and A&E, which has ESPN2 and the History Channel as part of its service.