Spanish-language broadcast network MundoFox is starting to show signs of life in primetime, despite its distribution challenges.

The joint venture of Fox Intl. Channels and Colombia’s RCN has more than tripled its primetime viewership in recent weeks, from under 50,000 viewers in the adults 18-49 demo in the summer to 80,000 in November. More than 277,000 in the demo (and 437,000 overall) turned out earlier this month for the Dec. 6 finale of the biblical-themed “Joseph of Egypt” (pictured), an import from Brazil.

In Los Angeles, the finale’s 1.4 rating boosted MundoFox to the No. 2 slot in the 18-49 demo, beating all networks regardless of language except for the Spanish-lingo behemoth Univision.

Fox execs say they are encouraged by the fact that despite only reaching  29% of all U.S. households, MundoFox ranked 46th last week among 122 ad-supported networks in English or Spanish.

“That may not sound like something to brag about… but most of the other networks in this list are available in 80% or more of U.S. homes,” said Fox Intl. Channels prexy-CEO Hernan Lopez.

Carriage deals continues to be a challenge as MundoFox has fallen far short of its stated target last year to reach 70% of the country’s 14.1 million Hispanic TV households by May. The network bowed in August 2012.

New York, the second-most important market after Los Angeles, remains elusive as MundoFox’s low-power station affiliate is not available on Time Warner Cable which reps up to 34% of the market.

“Given its geographical footprint and its high density of Hispanic viewers, Time Warner Cable is important to us,” said MundoFox prexy Emiliano Saccone. He expects the network to secure broader distribution next year as Fox and RCN redouble their commitment to growing MundoFox.

“Despite the constraints we have, we’ve been able to show that we’re well positioned to grow,” he said.

Like any startup net, MundoFox’s programming strategy has been a process of trial and error. Promising shows have included “100 Latinos,” the FremantleMedia/MundoFox spin on “Family Feud,” and action-drama “Alias El Mexicano.” “100 Latinos” has averaged about 129,000 viewers in recently weeks. “El Mexicano” has hovered around 173,000.

Interestingly, some of MundoFox’s efforts to drive synergies with other 21st Century Fox divisions have yielded weak results. The network re-aired Spanish-lingo dubbed episodes of FX’s crime drama “The Bridge,” set along the U.S.-Mexico border, which averaged under 20,000 viewers in the adults 18-49 demo.

The network’s heavily promoted launch of its own version of singing competition “El Factor X” delivered only about 23,000 viewers in adults 18-49. Those results reinforce the maxim in Spanish-lingo TV that Hispanic viewers often reject programs that are perceived as warmed-over versions of general-market fare.

Nonetheless, Saccone stresses that “El Factor X” was a good promotional vehicle for a network still in its infancy.

“From a brand perception standpoint, research showed that ‘El Factor X’ had a very positive impact on the MundoFox brand bringing added recognition to it, which was one of our key objectives,” he said.