Exclusive Interview: FIC’s Hernán López


PREMIUM: MundoFOX, a general-entertainment Spanish-language channel for the U.S. Hispanic market, launched this week. Hernán López, the president and CEO of Fox International Channels, talks about the network’s unique program schedule that targets Hispanics who may be dissatisfied with what’s available on competing channels.

WS: What is the programming strategy for MundoFOX?
LÓPEZ: We are excited about what we are going to do with MundoFOX because we have compared it to what the FOX Broadcasting Company did in the U.S. 25 years ago. Back then, ABC, CBS and NBC were the three major networks and the common thinking was that there would never be another broadcast network. But if you looked a little bit closer, ABC, CBS and NBC had fallen into a creative trap—in order to get big ratings numbers they needed to make shows that looked a lot like one another. So there was a creative voice and a part of the American public that were being underserved. When FOX launched in Los Angeles, New York [and other major markets] it appealed to a younger and male audience. It captured them and then the network covered the whole country and drew more adults and eventually became the biggest broadcast network in the U.S.

We see a parallel to that happening in Spanish-language television, where Univision and Telemundo are very comfortable, but also have no incentive to change. Their formula, from their point of view, is working—why change it? We, on the other hand, through the partnership with RCN Colombia, are going to do something new.
RCN is well known throughout the world for developing not only great writers, great writing and great products, but also for evolving the genre of the telenovela into something they call the teleseries—that is simply an action series mixed with a love story. It’s a very clever insight that, in this day and age, if you are going to ask viewers to commit to watching television five nights a week, you’ve got to do something that captures men and women independently. You cannot do what the telenovela did originally, which was to capture women and hope that the novela would be so strong that the rest of the household would watch, too, which is what happens today, by the way. It would be even better, RCN thought and proved, to create a show that both men and women will be happy to watch. They perfected this already some years ago. El Capo is the best example of a teleseries. It was the highest-rated show on TeleFutura. The finale was watched by 2 million Hispanic viewers and starting with season two, it’s moving to MundoFOX. El Capo 2 is our big premiere show. It’s rare that a network launches on the strength of an established show, but that is one of the shows that is the launching pad for MundoFOX.
We are not swearing off telenovelas, MundoFOX will have them, but it will air them more in daytime. We will have American movies and Latino movies. We’ll have weekly dramas, which is something very distinctive that hasn’t been seen much in Hispanic television. Kdabra, for instance, the show created by the Fox Latin America channels with Mexico’s top star, Christopher Von Uckerman, is going to be one of our biggest weekly drama shows. We’ll have national news. We’ll be the first national newscast in Spanish to be produced out of Los Angeles—the other two are produced in Miami. We’ll have reality shows. Shine Entertainment is shooting Minuto para Ganar, the Spanish version of Minute to Win It with Marco Antonio Regil. We will have kids’ programming as well, provided by National Geographic Kids, and we will have sports, including soccer and UFC [the mixed martial arts Ultimate Fighting Championship] fights.
WS: Has securing station coverage for MundoFOX been going well?
LÓPEZ: Very well indeed, we have 60 different stations and these markets together today cover more than 75 percent of all Hispanic households. And we are still making deals with stations. One of the most interesting things [is] that these stations are owned by independent broadcasters, like Omar Romay of Miami or Alex Meruelo of Los Angeles or Bob Beher of Phoenix or Roland Hernandez of Dallas.
WS: Just as there is an underserved portion of the audience, is there also an underserved segment of the ad market that might feel a demand for the type of programming that MundoFOX will be offering?
LÓPEZ: Even more so, I would say. Univision and Telemundo combined have held on to roughly 90 percent of the Spanish-language advertising market for many, many years. And that is when you add national and local. And that is proportionate to the share of audience that they have. When we went to advertisers last year with Fox Hispanic Media, the operator of our cable channels, it was the advertisers that told us they really need an outlet.
WS: I would imagine that this broad, general-entertainment schedule is also a way of drawing second-generation acculturated Hispanics who are bilingual.
LÓPEZ: Very much so. We call them ‘English-Language Reluctant.’ These are the viewers who wish there were more choices in Spanish-language television, but can’t find it, so they watch English-language television reluctantly.
In fact, we have divided the marketplace into three groups. This one is the first one and it happens to be the smallest but we have seen that 16 percent of Latinos are what we call English-Language Reluctant. Then there is another group called the Spanish-Language Reluctant, and these are the viewers that also are unhappy with Spanish-language television but they are stuck with it, maybe because they don’t speak English well enough to follow a show in English. We estimated that these are 24 percent of all Latino viewers. And then there is a third much bigger group that we call Spanish-Language Routine. These are the viewers that watch Spanish-language television and think they are happy with it, just like users of the Walkman were happy with the Walkman before there was an iPod.
WS: What a great analogy with the Walkman and the iPod!
LÓPEZ: We want to be the iPod of Spanish-language television!