Speaking to Latinos in English

El Rey CEO Antoinette Alfonso Zel On Startup's Launch Plans
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Hispanic-targeted startup network El Rey will launch in fourth-quarter 2013, but it’s already beginning to build its brand within a crowded cable-network marketplace. The brainchild of film director and writer Robert Rodriguez, the network is expected to feature original scripted series, movies and other programming targeted to young Latino males. El Rey CEO Antoinette Alfonso Zel spoke with Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead about the network’s plans leading up to its 2013 launch.

MCN: Why did El Rey decide to offer content in English, rather than Spanish, to appeal to Hispanic viewers?

Antoinette Alfonso Zel: I think that what El Rey hopes to do is dispel the notion that language is the badge of culture, and that’s not the case. We don’t think that you need to have language to claim to be proud of Latino culture. The U.S. Hispanic population is nine to 10 years younger than the general-market population. Young, second-generation Hispanic males, along with young 18-to-34 males of all other ethnicities, represent a very, very sizable opportunity and they’re not really being spoken to. We see an opportunity to create first a high-quality destination, and we believe that if it’s good and young-skewing, young Latinos will like it.

MCN: How do you view the cable industry’s overall efforts in reaching out to Hispanic viewers?

AZ: I think the cable landscape is an interesting one; we’re going to see it evolving. I suspect many of the multichannel operators will really look at their choices and say, “Is this really working as hard for this consumer as I thought?”

I would love all of them to do a deep dive in terms of the audience composition of the Spanish-language nets: Who’s really watching? It’s a very interesting time in the evolution of this segment and the media being offered them.

MCN: El Rey is one of four new multicultural networks Comcast has said it will support. Two channels have already launched — Aspire and BabyFirstTV. Are you satisfied with the support Comcast has given to those networks and has said it will provide to you?

AZ: I think the Comcast support has been great from the start. We can feel the support and they really want to do this right. They have a sincere interest to get the best programming out there. We went through a tough review period to win this slot, and the deal terms are really unique — it’s been a blessing to the network.

MCN: Will you use social media and other alternative distribution platforms to help promote the event prior to its launch?

AZ: Absolutely. We’ve already begun some interesting conversations with companies knowing that our consumer lives online, and we want to go where he is. We believe El Rey is the first network to be launched in the Facebook era, so we want to capture all the advantages of a network that’s born social.

We’re not seeing digital media as a risk or something that we have to adapt to, but rather as part of our DNA. By the time we launch, our audience will have already been participating with El Rey online a fair amount, from Tumblr to Instagram to the traditional [outlets], like Facebook and Twitter. By year-end, you’ll begin to see us in those spaces.

We already have a lot of support and we want to do a large outreach [to the creative community] — that’s another big part of Robert’s philosophy. Once we describe and define this destination we can nurture and mentor a lot of filmmakers and content creators to create content for this space. That’s going to be the first wave of the network.