When Fox International Channels (FIC) and Colombia’s RCN Television Group (RCN) executives announced they were teaming up to launch a new Spanish-language network during the NATPE conference in January, the news generated a huge buzz.
The creation of MundoFox is a big deal. If the new network truly delivers on providing a high-quality alternative, with U.S.-produced original programming, it could make a dent on Univision’s almost monopolistic Hispanic market share.
Media Moves spoke to FIC’s President Hernán Lopez shortly after the announcement about plans for the network.
Now, we talk exclusively with RCN’s President, Gabriel Reyes Copello.
M.M.: What will be RCN’s role in MundoFox?
G.R.: RCN will be contributing 50% from the standpoint of a formal partnership, in addition to content.
RCN is a company with more that 35 years experience producing content for an international market and more tan 15 years distributing not only a finished product but scripts as well.
We have experience, infrastructure and talent – from behind the scenes such as producers, writers and directors to internationally known actors.
That will be our biggest contribution, in addition to the management of news through our network NTN24.
M.M.: What is RCN’s cash investment in the creation of MundoFox?
G.R.: That information is protected by a confidentiality agreement. It’s a joint venture in which we are making not just an economic investment, but are also contributing original new programming as well as content from our catalog.
M.M.: What is RCN’s vision on creating a new Spanish-language network in the United States?
G.R.: It’s a huge challenge. We have strong competitors like Univision with Televisa backing and Telemundo with the support of NBC [Comcast]. But we think there’s room for another channel that will satisfy the information and entertainment needs of the 50 million Hispanics in the U.S.
We have experience, a very strong Brand in Fox and we have the content. There’s a great opportunity to offer U.S. Hispanics a good alternative.
We want to offer more attractive programming; shows that will mark the difference to what Hispanics in the U.S. are seeing today.
We do not plan to replicate programming that airs on Univision and Telemundo.
M.M.: Are you saying you won’t air novelas?
G.R.: Well, no. Within a programming grid there have to be some telenovelas, but we’ll have a great variety of programming that will interest and satisfy the whole Hispanic family.
Fiction is very important and we’ll have some high quality series, reality shows, sports, thanks to our connection with Fox Deportes, and of course, news.
M.M.: When will that be?
G.R.: We’re still on the same schedule as when we made the announcement in January. We expect it will be in September or October of this year. We’ll be making the decision together with Fox.
M.M.: What are RCN’s expectations about entering the U.S. Hispanic market?
G.R.: We already have an established presence in the market with series we’ve aired first on Telemundo with “Betty La Fea,” then Univision and Telefutura with “El Capo” and “Rosario Tijeras.” We also offered a wide variety of programming through TV Colombia and news on NTN24.
We felt we needed to explore the option of an over-the-air network. This is a much bigger channel – not a “theme” or ethnic channel, but rather one that’s dedicated to the entire Hispanic audience, with programming geared towards that public.
M.M.: RCN has previously sold programs to Univision and Telefutura. Does the joint venture with Fox mean your programs will now exclusively air on MundoFox?
G.R.: Yes, our programming will now be exclusive to MundoFox, with the exception of some shows that are currently under license to Univision and Telefutura. We have about 7 to 8 productions that have already gone on the air or are about to air on Univision that we must respect, but everything else will be MundoFox exclusive – pretty much all of our new programs from June of 2011 to the present.
M.M.: When I spoke to Hernán López in January, he heavily promoted your series “Kdabra,” but that show recently debuted on Univision. That network’s reps say they have the rights for the first two seasons. Will that show be able to make your launch programming slate?
G.R.: The first season of “Kdabra” is committed to Univision, but we’ll be able to air the following seasons.
G.R.: With NTN24 we have a 24-hour international news channel. We’re now going to strengthen our presence in the United States, with content about Hispanics for Hispanics.
We have our news center in Bogotá, but we currently have bureaus in New York, Washington and Miami and we’re planning to expand to Los Angeles, where MundoFox has its operations.
M.M.: You mention your news center in Bogotá. Are you then planning on producing a U.S. newscast from Colombia? If not, where will the newscasts be produced?
G.R.: We haven’t yet defined where, but we will have a news operations center in the United States. We plan to increase the news coverage in the U.S. We have the advantage that we already have a news team in place.
M.M.: Will you be hiring journalists in the U.S.?
G.R.: Yes, we definitely plan on hiring people that are already here in the U.S.
M.M.: What will happen with NTN24? Will RCN pull the plug on the network in order to focus on the U.S.?
G.R.: NTN24 will continue to function as an international news channel. We’re planning to have a parallel conduit dedicated to U.S. news. We’re in the process of hiring and developing more newscasts for NTN24.
M.M.: Will RCN air MundoFox programming in Colombia?
G.R.: At least initially we don’t plan to do that. RCN manages its own programming independently within Colombia. We don’t exclude the possibility that we may want to air some MundoFox programming in the future.
M.M.: How was RCN’s relationship with Fox International Channels in Colombia and how do you foresee that connection to develop with the partnership in the U.S.?
G.R.: We have a long relationship with Fox. It’s our provider of movies and series in Colombia. Fox Telecolombia has also been our provider for many years. We also have a good relationship with 20th Century Fox.
It’s thanks to that relationship that last year Hernán López and I had an initial conversation about the possibility of partnering up for an over the air television network. After many meetings, we agreed to launch this channel that we hope will be on the air soon.
M.M.: What’s the next step?
G.R.: For the time being, I’m in the process of helping Hernán [López] and Emiliano [Saccone] in the programming design and the distribution structure.
We’re all going to work hand in hand in this project because it’s the most important one we have for the next two years.
It’s not just me as president of the company, but the owners [Organización Ardila Lülle] and Lucas Capaz, Vice President of RCN, who will be coordinating our efforts between RCN and Fox to make MundoFox a success.
About Gabriel Reyes Copello:
Since 2001, he is the CEO of RCN Television. He coordinated the launch of the network in 1998, becoming its first Executive Vice President. He was behind the production of “Yo soy Betty la Fea,” the most successful novela in Colombia’s history, which has aired in more than 90 countries, and has been remade into 21 different versions, including the English-language “Ugly Betty” in the U.S.
During his tenure as President, he has diversified the network to include in its portfolio thematic networks such as NTN24, TV Colombia and RCN Novelas.