Billionaire Carlos Slim’s phone company America Movil SAB, pushing further into programming content, is starting an online news service focusing on Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city.
The venture is a partnership with El Universal Cia. Periodistica Nacional SA, publisher of one of Mexico’s largest national newspapers, El Universal, according to the project’s website. Executives from both companies announced the project, which also covers the surrounding state of Jalisco, today in Guadalajara.
The project pits America Movil against broadcasters Grupo Televisa SAB and TV Azteca SAB along with local newspapers. The TV companies have complained that America Movil can’t provide online video content in Mexico because it doesn’t have a government license to offer video programming over its phone network. Slim’s company says while it can’t offer cable service it doesn’t need a permit to produce video for the Internet.
America Movil’s Telmex unit has offered a national online news service, Uno TV Noticias, since 2008, and the new project is the company’s first to focus on a local market. With a population of 4.4 million, the Guadalajara area ranks only behind Mexico City in size.
The two companies, which will offer a print and video service, plan to expand with similar projects in other Mexican cities, said Arturo Elias, a Telmex vice president, at the event.
Slim has also been expanding his investments in news media companies, though Uno TV Noticias is the only one he controls outright. His holdings include an 8.1 percent stake in New York Times Co. and a 2.7 percent stake in Promotora de Informaciones SA, publisher of Spain’s El Pais newspaper, according to Bloomberg data.
Telmex and El Universal both can bring newsgathering and video production capabilities to the project, since they produce short clips for their own websites.
Telmex’s video service has also offered coverage of events such as Formula One races and the Pan American Games, drawing the ire of the broadcasters, who have also been pushing into the markets Slim dominates.
Mexico’s Federal Telecommunications Commission is currently studying whether Telmex can provide online content without a government license.
Televisa controls three cable-TV carriers that compete with America Movil for Internet and phone customers in Mexico. The company has a 50 percent stake in Grupo Iusacell SA, the third-largest mobile-phone carrier in Mexico behind America Movil and Telefonica SA. The other half of Iusacell is owned by Ricardo Salinas, the billionaire who controls TV Azteca.