Exclusive Interview: MundoFox’s Emiliano Saccone


NEW YORK: Emiliano Saccone, the president of MundoFox, discusses how the young network is attracting viewers in the competitive U.S. Hispanic market—and offering up a new alternative for brands keen on tapping into this booming demographic.

WS: How did MundoFox come about?
SACCONE: Seven or eight years ago, Hernán López [the president and CEO of FOX International Channels] and I realized that the TV landscape in the U.S. was going to change with digitalization, which, among other things, offered more bandwidth and allowed us to think about having more TV offerings than were currently available. Although there was no idea [at the time] what the 2010 Census would reveal about the growth and maturity of the Hispanic market, we thought that a network, not a cable channel, made perfect sense.

We had to find an ideal partner that could guarantee a solid content [pipeline]. Thankfully, we have a long-standing relationship in Latin America with RCN, which has a majority stake in MundoFox. We had gotten together, around the 2010 Census, with executives at RCN to discuss the idea. They had already been thinking about something similar. They share similar qualities with FOX in that for different reasons, to be able to penetrate the U.S. market as Colombians, their only option was to innovate. Innovation is a word that identifies FOX, especially in free TV. From that perspective there was a natural affinity and the rest is history.

WS: What can you tell us about the performance of MundoFox in the short time it’s been on air?
SACCONE: I think the channel needs to be mature in order to make a better assessment. For that to happen, you need at least one or two years [on air], minimum. This allows for optimizing the channel’s distribution, for the brand to penetrate not only from the distribution side, but also in the minds and hearts of the people. We’re not there yet, but in important U.S. markets like Los Angeles, which is the number one market in the country, MundoFox has garnered near historic results, especially in prime time. Los Angeles is the biggest market and the hardest to conquer, especially for new players in the industry, because it’s loyal to the history of Mexican content and is predominately Mexican. Under those circumstances, MundoFox has accomplished everything it aimed for from a technical perspective, which was having 100-percent distribution, a great position in cable-operator platforms, and filling a frequency that historically had an established Spanish-speaking audience. This was the ideal scenario for any new player. Under these conditions, MundoFox [has been] number two, or three in the worst of cases, almost every night since launch in L.A. From this view, the assessment is fantastic.

However, we’re not even close to where we want to be. There are markets where we have 50 or 60 percent distribution. Competing right now is a big challenge because we’re at a disadvantage in that we’re not reaching the [highest number of potential viewers].

But, in almost all of the top ten markets in the U.S., I’d say we’ve had weekly success stories and we continue to grow. That’s quite motivating.

WS: Companies like Toyota, L’Oréal and T-Mobile came on board early as sponsors at the network. How are you attracting ad dollars from brands that usually focus on English-language media?
SACCONE: In essence, the strategy we’re using is choice. This is the opportunity for clients to have an alternative to what they’ve always had in the market. This is the starting point for them. The rest is, of course, a series of factors that have to do with the business of television—reach, flexibility in integrating content, audience guarantees, etc. But I’d say that our starting point and flagship is this concept of choice. It allows the advertiser to reach out to the Hispanic consumer with stand-out content, different from what’s out there, in a [new] way.

WS: Do you plan on developing original productions at MundoFox?
SACCONE: We have a lot of projects in mind. The great thing is that in contrast to those that have much to lose, we can experiment. This was FOX’s big secret 26 years ago, while CBS, NBC and ABC worried about holding on to what they had, as they couldn’t take big risks because the slightest incorrect move could cost them.

It’s true that it won’t be enough even if we have strong and proven product in the U.S. At some point we’re going to have to increase original content production for MundoFox. This is what will generate a strong connection with viewers. We’re talking about high-quality projects that adhere to the slogan that separates us: Latino Entertainment, American Attitude. These demand much more time to be completed. That means we have start thinking about them now and that’s currently underway. There are plenty of projects that won’t see the light of day in one, two or three years. So we have to strike a balance between the content we receive from our partners, which is tailored to the tastes of the U.S. Hispanic audience, with content produced strictly for MundoFox.

WS: What are some of your other goals for 2013?
SACCONE: Having a clearer idea of how we benefitted from these [first] four or five months and be able to discard assumptions and get a reality check of what the market is and what it means to operate a network. This is allowing us to hone our skills. We’re working toward the most important calendar dates for us, which include the Upfronts in New York, followed by the TV season starting in October. This calls for new content. There are genres that tell us we’re on the right track and we’ll continue along these lines. There will be many new seasons, new shows and some highlights we’re working on with the channel and our brothers at FOX.