Fox courts young Hispanics with new network

“Fortune favors the brave” is one of Rupert Murdoch’s favorite expressions.

The exec team at Fox Intl. Channels has seized that mantra with gusto in orchestrating Monday’s launch of Spanish-lingo broadcast network MundoFox barely eight months after the joint venture with Colombia’s RCN Television Group was announced.

The partners pounced on what they see as a clear opportunity to capitalize on marketers’ growing desire to reach U.S. Hispanic viewers. Madison Avenue’s interest in the fast-growing ethnic demo was turbo-charged last year by the latest census figures confirming the exponential growth of the domestic Latino population, particularly the projected growth rates for U.S.-born Hispanics over the next generation.

MundoFox’s programming will be in Spanish, but the net is definitely courting the younger, so-called bicultural audience with a mix of telenovelas (pulled from RCN’s deep vault), comedies, reality and gameshows, kidvid as well as news, to which it’s made a significant commitment.

Billed to advertisers as “Latino entertainment, American attitude,” the launch lineup includes a Spanish spin on the NBC gameshow “Minute to Win It” (“Minuto Para Ganar”), produced by News Corp.’s Shine America wing; segs of the RCN telenovela that inspired ABC’s “Ugly Betty” (“Betty La Fea”); latenight repeats en Espanol of Fox toon “American Dad”; a drama billed as a Latina “Sex and the City” (“Las Santisimas”); and live UFC mixed-martial arts events.

The network quietly went on air earlier this month with a loop of older programs drawn from the RCN library. MundoFox officially bows at 7 a.m. Monday with the animated kidvid series “Zula Patrol.”

MundoFox is also mounting a news operation that will produce a live national 6 p.m. newscast for the Eastern and Western time zones, anchored by veteran news and sports broadcaster Rolando Nichols.

MundoFox prexy Emiliano Saccone sees a clear parallel between the contempo Spanish-lingo TV market in the U.S. and the atmosphere in which Fox Broadcasting Co. broke through as the fourth network in the late 1980s. Fox and RCN execs see an opening for a network to appeal to younger, U.S.-born Hispanic viewers in a landscape dominated by the entrenched leader, Univision, and NBCUniversal-owned Telemundo.

“We’ve reached a tipping point in the evolution of U.S. Spanish-language programming and the time is right for MundoFox,” Saccone said. “Like we did in 1986 when we launched Fox Broadcasting, we’ve read the landscape and believe the time is now.”

MundoFox has been spearheaded by the Fox Intl. Channels unit, led by prexy Hernan Lopez. It’s been an all-hands effort for the unit, which operates more than 250 channels in Europe, Latin America Asia and Africa. Saccone is a 13-year FIC vet with experience overseeing channels and production operations in Latin America.

MundoFox has lined up 50 affiliate stations to date covering 80% of Hispanic homes in the U.S. That’s especially notable given that the network was unveiled in January during the NATPE confab in Miami and neither Fox nor RCN contributed any O&O stations to the venture.

MundoFox’s flagship affiliate is L.A.’s KWHY-TV, which is long established in the nation’s second-largest TV market as a Spanish-lingo outlet. The decision to launch MundoFox on broadcast stations ensures that the network will have cable, satellite and telco carriage in most of its affiliate markets thanks to the FCC’s must-carry rule.

MundoFox landed an established Spanish-lingo outlet in Miami, WJAN-TV, which ensures solid distribution in that market, but it had to settle for a low-power station, WXPO-LD, in the crowded New York market. The station is carried by Cablevision’s Optimum service but not by Gotham’s dominant provider, Time Warner Cable, or by satcasters DirecTV and Dish.

At Thursday’s MundoFox launch party at downtown L.A.’s Club Nokia, execs were marveling at the whirlwind birth of the network. It was noted by many that the task of launching a 24/7 channel was taken on largely by FIC staffers who already had full-time jobs.

“We announced the channel at NATPE in January, and now here we are eight months later,” said RCN prexy Gabriel Reyes at Club Nokia, which was packed with advertisers, media buyers and talent from MundoFox shows.

Fox and RCN are not alone in revving up programming targeting the Latino millennial crowd. Univision’s TeleFutura network is focused on younger demos, as is Telemundo’s cable sibling Mun2, which has increased the amount of bilingual programming it carries, and MTV’s Tres. Indie cabler NuvoTV has staked out the English-lingo turf with shows featuring Latino stars and themes. Helmer Robert Rodriguez pacted earlier this year with Comcast to create an English-lingo entertainment cabler dubbed El Rey.

MundoFox’s charter sponsors include Toyota, L’Oreal USA and T-Mobile USA. The network’s ad sales are handled by the Fox Hispanic Media unit, created by FIC last year to more effectively bundle sales for Fox’s Spanish-lingo cablers, including Fox Deportes and Nat Geo Mundo.

MundoFox’s first paid spot is set to be a trailer for 20th Century Fox’s Viola Davis-Maggie Gyllenhaal drama “Won’t Back Down.”

(Anna Marie de la Fuente contributed to this report.)

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