With its soft launch set for next Wednesday (Aug. 1), the new Spanish-language broadcast network is targetting younger viewers — 18-34s — more than the existing Hispanic networks, and it isn’t afraid to let some English on the air, including commercials. Partners News Corp. and Colombia’s RCN say they’ll have 50 affiliates covering 80% of the U.S. Hispanic population on board by the official launch on Aug. 13.
Launching a new American broadcast network is a risky proposition, but perhaps less so if you’ve done it before. Affiliates and advertisers are betting that with MundoFox, News Corp. can repeat in Spanish TV the homerun it hit 26 years ago in English with Fox.
The game plan is much the same: Aim young.
“MundoFox has really carved out a niche in a space that I think most other Spanish-language stations have known about, thought about, talked about, but are afraid to move in that direction,” says Gerardo Martinez, Sacramento market manger for the Adelante Media Group, which is flipping its Azteca America affiliates in Salt Lake City (KBTU-LP) and Milwaukee (WBWT-LP) to MundoFox in time for the network’s soft launch next Wednesday (Aug.1).
The new network, in which News Corp. is partnering with Colombian programming powerhouse RCN, isn’t afraid to let some English on the air, says Martinez. “This has legs, because the younger generation continues to keep assimilating and they will be the 18-34 demographic real soon.”
He concedes the network may not appeal to older Hispanics, especially those born outside the U.S. “My mom’s not switching the channel anytime soon,” he says.
News Corp. and RCN say the network will reach 80% of Hispanic homes with the help of some 50 affiliates for the official launch, now set for Aug. 13. That exceeds by five points the goal they set when they announced the network last January at the NATPE conference in Miami.
“We see that there is a big portion of the [U.S. Hispanic] community that’s underserved,” says Emiliano Saccone, a longtime Fox International Channels executive who was named president of MundoFox in March. “We call it ‘Latino Entertainment — American Attitude,’ so in other words, we want to do in Spanish what Fox did to the English broadcasting tradition 26 years ago.”
This project has been in the works for a while, says Saccone. He and Fox International Channels CEO Hernan Lopez had been nurturing the idea of a U.S. Spanish network for about seven years, but had to “wait for the stars to align.”
That alignment came with the release of the 2010 U.S. Census that showed undiminished growth in the Hispanic population and the opportunity to partner with RCN.
A force in U.S. Spanish television, says Saccone, RCN not only has a huge library, but also an active production arm. Among the new programming RCN will be delivering to MundoFox is the second season of the primetime “tele-series” El Capo. It was a big hit on TeleFutura in its first season.
Saccone calls it a “tele-series” because its goes beyond the traditional telenovela. Shooting takes place on location with a lot of action and higher production values than what is seen in most novelas, he says. And with a crime element, El Capo appeals to men as well as women.
MundoFox is not relying solely on RCN. It has partnered with Shine, another News Corp. company, to produce the game show Minuto Para Ganar (Minute to Win It). Shine’s first-ever Spanish-language production is shooting in Los Angeles.
In addition, Saccone says, MundoFox is developing two daytime shows and a “U.S. style” primetime series in Spanish. MundoFox is also producing its own daily national newscast out of Los Angeles.
With no historical ratings to look at, ad buyers are negotiating guarantees based on expectations. But Brett Dennis, SVP and chief media communications officer at Conill, the oldest Latino ad agency in the U.S., says it’s not just a numbers game.
“The flavor is very different; it’s very contemporary,” Dennis says. “It’s filling a void that Hispanics in the U.S. are pretty vocal about in terms of the content.
“It’s not repurposed. It’s not a lot of stuff that’s come over from other countries and is just rebroadcast here. A lot of it is original production. The production quality is, I think, significantly higher than some other choices that are out there in the marketplace.”
Conill, whose clients Toyota and T-Mobile will be charter advertisers on MundoFox, has experience with sister network Fox Deportes and Dennis praises Fox’s creative approaches to ad placements, such as interrupting soccer matches.
That same creativity is being exhibited by MundoFox, he says, declining to provide details.
What makes MundoFox unique among the Spanish-language networks is its willingness to accept advertising in English as well as Spanish, Dennis says.
“For us, language is just a tactical way of reaching Hispanics. We’re very interested in delivering to our clients the total Hispanic audience, regardless of language or acculturation.”
Instead of using the digital subchannels of the Fox O&Os, MundoFox decided to look for affiliates with experience in the Hispanic marketplace.
“First and foremost, our O&Os have business plans in place for their digital spectrum,” said Inae Wilson, Sr. VP-broadcast distribution, Fox Broadcasting.
“We were really focused on working with the experts in this space and that’s the Hispanic broadcasters.”
In addition to Adelante, MundoFox is launching with affiliates owned by such established Spanish TV groups as Hero Broadcasting, Entravision, Cocola Broadcasting and London Broadcasting.
MundoFox was also looking for full-power affiliates wherever possible since they come with must-carry rights that assure cable carriage throughout their markets.
It was able to land a full-power outlet in the No. 1 Hispanic market, Los Angeles, signing on Meruelo Media’s KWHY. However, it had to settle for low-power stations in three of the top 10 Hispanic markets, including No. 2 New York, No. 3 Miami and No. 5 Chicago.
Still missing is an affiliate in Houston, the No. 4 market with 4.4% of all Hispanic TV homes. A Fox spokesman says that hole should be filled by the official launch.
In Dallas-Ft. Worth, the No. 6 Hispanic market, MundoFox found a full-power affiliate in HIC Broadcast’s KFWD. It started as a Spanish-language station in 1988, but switched to an English-language independent after losing its Telemundo affiliation when owner NBCUniversal bought its own station in the market.
For Wayne Casa, who has been at KFWD for two decades and has been general manager since 2002, the return to Hispanic programming represents a big opportunity.
While the number of Spanish TV stations in the Dallas-Ft. Worth market has grown, Casa calls the programming “a lot of the same.”
“What Fox is doing … is presenting a menu of programming that is very, very different than what’s on the other stations. It is counterprogramming very effectively.”
The KFWD sales staff has been pitching local agencies well ahead of the launch, says Casa. “I gotta tell ya, the response has been more than I expected it to be. They recognize that this is a real opportunity and they want to climb onboard.”