SAN BENITO, Texas – Throughout the Rio Grande Valley, inside many popular restaurants, one is likely see an independent TV channel playing inside. The channel is called Valley TV, a public space TV network run by local entrepreneur Anthony Sarelli.

What is noticeable about the content on the channel are the large number of stories and support for local nonprofits. The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service sought an in-depth interview with Sarelli to find out why this was. 

“When you visit a location with Valley TV, you’ll see local news, weather, and sports, as well as, public service announcements and awareness campaigns for non-profits and charities,” Sarelli pointed out.

Sarelli said Valley TV features the work of local nonprofits because many of them need and deserve support.

“The Rio Grande Valley has a large number of people that need help in any number of ways, and there are hundreds of non-profits in place trying to meet that need. The problem is that almost all of them need help too. They’re underfunded, have limited staff and are largely unknown in their own communities,” Sarelli said. “Having a platform like this in place helps them get seen by new people every day and a chance to gain support and funding, which allows them to do the work.”

Sarelli said when he launched Valley TV he always had local nonprofits in mind.

“From the start, the idea behind Valley TV was to create a platform that would commit to supporting them in a more consistent and meaningful way. We brand these messages under the “Non-Profit TV” brand, to distinguish this content and it allows us to place their message within other networks, outside Valley TV, such as broadcast TV, social networks and all the other platforms that can accept it, expanding the reach even further to state and national audiences.” 

The Guardian asked Sarelli what Valley TV is all about and what separates if from its competitors.

“Over the years, Valley TV quietly became the largest network of its kind, by growing in size every year and refining the programming to keep the audience engaged,” Sarelli responded. “At our peak, we had about 60 locations from SPI to Laredo with a daily audience of about 50,000. You’ll find us in restaurants, grocery stores, barber shops, waiting areas, etc.”

Sarelli said he has worked hard to make the network an effective and affordable option for all businesses, large and small and have the added benefit of serving the community.   

“We’re excited about the future in that we’re moving towards expanding the Texas and national audiences, which will give our advertisers even better results. But it also allows us to help our non-profits to thrive as well.”

Sarelli said he gets calls from all over the country from people asking if something like Valley TV exists in their area. “All I can say is that we’re working on it.”

Asked who the sponsors are for Valley TV, Sarelli said: “Our sponsors include many local businesses and professionals, as well as larger corporate sponsors who recognize the advantage of associating their brands with all the non-profit efforts doing the work to support our community, which isn’t something you can just buy off the shelf.”  

Sarelli said Valley TV has 501c3 tax status. “So, if you’re a billionaire philanthropist looking for a good cause, look this way,” he joked.

History


Sarelli founded Valley TV nine years ago. Originally from the Washington area, he was one of the youngest directors for a Fortune 500 marketing company and oversaw operations for several states including Texas. “When looking at the South Texas market, I saw an incredible need for humanitarian services,” Sarelli said. 

A little research showed the RGV had some of the lowest income zip codes in the nation. Once in Texas, he partnered with dozens of businesses, built the infrastructure and expanded services to include in-house media production and agency services.  

“We’ve produced hundreds of PSAs and local TV commercials, but even as an agency, local TV stations didn’t offer much help in the way of discounted airtime,” Sarelli said. “So we approached Spectrum, and they arranged packages exclusively for our non-profits at discounted rates. When we combine all these platforms and social media with coordinated campaigns, good things happen.”

Liker many other businesses in the Valley, the coronavirus pandemic hit Valley TV hard.

“Covid hurt our effort significantly as 100 percent of our audience is in the public space. Several venues went out of business and our corporate partners struggled as well,” Sarelli recalled. “We took that time to scale down until it passed and used the time to improve programming and infrastructure.”

Sarelli said how Valley TV responded to the pandemic paid off. “It worked out okay as we survived and ended up with an even better product that we can now scale to state or national levels instantly.”

Endorsements


Dr. Reto Felix is an associate professor of marketing at UT-Rio Grande Valley’s College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Marketing Department Felix is a big fan of Valley TV. He called the program “an exciting disrupter product” and asked Sarelli to speak to the university’s student entrepreneur group. Felix said he did this because Valley TV is “a unique hybrid model of digital signage and has a community element that’s very unique.”

Support also came from former state Rep. Eddie Lucio of San Benito. While in office, Lucio wrote a letter of recommendation encouraging a large local grocer to adopt the channel in their stores. This was in addition to an outside petition signed by over 20,000 people urging local retail chains to adopt the channel as a benefit to community.  

Asked for a few closing remarks, Sarelli said: “We’ve shown that our model works by delivering to both our commercial and non-profit clients. Locally we’re looking to expand our network and take viewership to 100,000 a day.”

Sarelli added: “Our website has interviews from some of the non-profits we’ve worked with, explaining how it helped their effort. Many had almost no visibility or support, but after working with us, they now have much better awareness, funding and something crucial to any effort, hope and encouragement.” 

If you’d like to learn more about Valley TV or how the channel supports non-profits, reach out to them through their website, www.valleytvrgv.com.


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