Posted on 24 January 2012.
Hernán López, President and CEO Fox International Channels
News that Fox International Channels (FIC) and Colombia’s RCN Television Group (RCN) are launching MundoFox, a new Spanish-language network targeting U.S. Hispanics, has caused a lot of commotion.
To learn more about the new venture, Media Moves talked to FIC’s President and CEO, Hernán López, who’s currently doing the rounds at the 2012 NATPE conference in Miami.
MundoFox will be a full broadcast network with operations based out of Los Angeles. It is geared to compete against Univision and Telemundo starting in the Fall of 2012.
In the interview, López expresses great confidence the new network will replicate the success Fox achieved after its launch in 1986.
How did this project come about and how long has it been in the works?
We met with RCN about 10 months ago. They have been licensing their content to Univision for a number of years and to Televisa for a number of years, but they wanted to start direct programming in the U.S.
Meanwhile, we realized the scale of the broadcasting advertising pie was much bigger than in cable and wanted to get a piece of that pie.
We knew that with the power of the Fox brand, our access to sports and entertainment, married to RCN content, we’d have a winning proposition.
Why try to enter the U.S. Hispanic market now and not before?
If you’re in Latin America, the Fox brand is popular. Every time someone immigrates to the U.S. from Latin America, they know what the Fox brand stands for when they get here. There’s no other U.S. Spanish network that can say that.
We haven’t done it before because we didn’t have a partner like RCN. We also didn’t see the overwhelming demand from advertisers for more Spanish content before now.
If something convinced us that we needed to get in this market, it was the 2010 census. It took us over the edge. When we saw that 50% of the population growth came from Latinos… we realized we couldn’t afford to not be part of this advertising marketplace.
"Kdabra" is a fantasy-themed weekly drama that will air on MundoFox.
Latinos who are bilingual and Spanish dominant that today are watching the main broadcasting channels. We’re also going after English-language program watchers, who are looking for quality shows like the ones we have a history of producing and want to see that type of programming in Spanish.
For example, Fox International channels has been producing the very successful “Kdabra,” a weekly drama with high production values, popular in Mexico. When we produced it, we had to air it at the same time slot as “24” or “Bones.” The kind of quality of those shows is what we had to live up to.
What challenges do you envision in getting distribution of the network in the U.S.?
I don’t see any difficulty getting distribution. The reception in the past 48 hours since we announced the launch of MundoFox… we have had an overwhelming demand.
We’re looking to attract stations that want to switch from their current programming or are interested in going from being an independent to a Mundo Fox affiliate.
Our preference is to go with full-power stations already broadcasting in Spanish.
I don’t believe we’re going to get stations to switch from Univision programming. They’re the market leader. But there are many other stations that have lower-rated programs and don’t have the power of the Fox brand or RCN content, that would benefit from being part of a national network.
What will your programming offerings be and how will they differ from Univision and Telemundo?
Think of Fox 25 years ago when it was launched. ABC, CBS, NBC were widely successful and were creating great shows. But there was an opening for Fox. Fox had to step out of the box to create some exceptional innovative programming like “Married with Children,” “The Simpsons,” “X-Files,” then came “24,” the first show done narrating in live time. Then there’s the great success of “American Idol” and “Glee.”
Throughout the years, Fox has pushed the envelope in creating great programming.
It’s an experiment that’s already proven success.
How effective do you think you’ll be competing against Univision?
We think we will be effective. We have no illusion of beating Univision in a short amount of time. They have a huge established audience and they’re really good at what they do.
We think the whole advertising market has room and our entry into the market will help everybody.
You say there’s still room in the advertising pie for another network, but some ad execs would argue they’re not looking to see another “general interest network,” but rather “niche” channels. How would you respond to that?
Our advertisers have been calling us consistently since the announcement was made. They’re overwhelmingly in support of the network, saying it’s a great idea. So, I’m absolutely confident there’s room for growth.
An advertiser today told me perhaps currently there won’t be a “must buy,” but there’s an “I want to buy” position for ad buys and that’s significant.
Will there be any original programming produced in the U.S.?
There will be. We’re looking at a number of formats. The Shine Group, which produces “The Biggest Loser” will produce their first show in Spanish for us.
Does that mean your first U.S. production will be a reality show?
Most likely, yes.
RCN will be producing two daily newscasts for the network. Will they be produced in Colombia, or in the U.S.?
RCN has five bureaus in the U.S. already, so we haven’t decided where the newscast will be produced. But it will be targeted to U.S. Latino audience.
How soon do you expect to have a competitive edge in the U.S.?
"El Capo," a Fox Telecolombia/RCN production, aired on Telefutura. With the joint venture, all RCN programming will now be available for air on MundoFox.
I think we’ll have a competitive edge from day one. If you look at “El Capo,” (A Fox Telecolombia/RCN production) which aired in Telefutura with great ratings, you can see that our programming is successful.
I assure you when Fox was launched 25 years ago, no one thought it would be #1.
Broadcasting is a long-term game. We don’t need to be # 1 to be profitable.
You’re currently searching for the executive who’ll be running MundoFox. What are you looking for in the person that will help shape this new venture?
We’re looking for someone with programming and marketing experience, with knowledge of the U.S. Hispanic marketplace, the ability to execute on a plan and launch a network. We’re confident because the team is already in place. Fox will be doing the sales and distribution and handling legal and government affairs. We have many of the essential ingredients in place, including great access to content, so from that point of view, whoever ends up running network, we will have already done a lot of work for him or her.
Do you have a more precise launch date other than Fall 2012?
Not yet, but I can say we would like to be launched by the time the Nielsen season starts. We just can’t announce the launch date yet.
We’re still building the programming slate. We have a pretty good idea what we’re going to air, but we’re not going to disclose it until we’re closer to the launch date.
What are the expectations for MundoFox?
We expect to become a network that viewers go to as a destination, like they go to the Fox network today. We don’t want to be a network viewers casually find themselves watching. We believe with innovative content and the power of the Fox and RCN brands, we will be a great challenger to the other networks and increase the size of the advertising pie.
About Hernán López:
He is the President and Chief Executive Officer of FOX International Channels, overseeing a massive international multichannel television organization that operates over 200 channels and their related online and production units.
Mr. López is responsible for all operations of FIC, which produces channels primarily under the brands Fox, National Geographic Channel, FX, Fox Life, Fox Crime, NatGeo Wild, MovieCity and Star Movies, reaching almost 1 billion subscribers in Latin America, Europe and Asia. He also oversees Fox’s US Hispanic cable networks, Fox Deportes and Utilísima.