Alan Gomez, USA TODAY; via LJB by email
La revolución will be televised.
Cuban programming is coming to U.S. airwaves thanks to DISH, the Colorado-based provider with 13.9 million TV subscribers. The company announced the launch of a new channel Thursday called CUBAMAX TV, which will carry entertainment programming created in Cuba featuring some of the island's most famous celebrities. The channel will not feature any political or news programming, but instead will focus on comedies, children's programming, music videos and telenovelas.
The channel's operations will be in Miami, where producers will package shows from Cuba and distribute them to subscribers of DishLATINO.
"Connecting viewers with their heritage and culture is at the heart of the DishLATINO brand promise, and today marks an important milestone as we deliver movies and TV shows from Cuba that were previously unavailable," Alfredo Rodriguez, vice president of DishLATINO, said in a statement. "With an estimated two million Cubans living in the U.S. and many others eager to learn about the island's rich culture, we're excited to provide a window into the arts and entertainment world of Cuba."
Ever since President Obama and Cuban President
Raúl Castro announced in December 2014 that the Cold War foes would reestablish diplomatic relations, much of the focus has been on increased trade and travel between the two countries. But the most visible changes have been in the entertainment field.
A wave of American celebrities have flooded Havana in the past two years, from
Paris Hilton parading around her family's former hotel to Conan O'Brien hosting a series of his shows on the island. Filming for the next Fast and Furious movie recently wrapped in Havana and U.S. viewers can already watch a reality TV show called Cuban Chrome on the Discovery Channel that focuses on the mechanics who maintain classic American cars in Cuba.
Still, the announcement is a surprising one, given the two sides' contentious history over TV broadcasts.
In 1990, the
U.S. government began broadcasting "TV Martí" into Cuba following the model of Voice of America, which was broadcast into communist nations during the Cold War. The Cuban government has jammed the broadcasts, as well as " Radio Martí," and complained that the signals violate international broadcasting rules. Castro even used a portion of his first speech before the United Nations General Assembly in September to call for the "cessation of radio and TV broadcasts, and of subversion and destabilization programs against the island."
About the only U.S. programming shown on Cuba's state-run TV is the occasional Major League Baseball game — usually aired several days after they took place and absent Cuban baseball players who defected from the island — and a few American movies.
DISH's new channel will now expose American viewers to a slew of Cuban artists and characters.
The most well-known is Pánfilo, a bumbling old man played by actor
Luis Silva, who played dominoes with Obama in a televised sketch during the president's historic visit to Havana in March. The channel will also feature a singing competition called Sonando en Cuba and several other programs.