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El Rey Sets Debut For Orci/Kurtzman Series ‘Matador’ As March to Upfront Begins

El Rey, the cable network  built around the creative sensibilities of filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, set premiere dates for two new series and unveiled an advertising pact with Heineken USA, in the first of dozens of presentations slated to be held in coming weeks as the TV industry prepares for the annual “upfront” market, when networks hope to sell the bulk of their ad inventory for the coming fall season.

The emerging cable outlet said it would launch “Matador,” an original, scripted action series from Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, in July, just following the World Cup competition. “Matador” is the network’s second scripted project, and Rodriguez will direct the first episode of the series.  El Rey’s first scripted series, a TV reworking of the Rodriguez film “From Dusk Till Dawn,” is slated to debut March 11.  The network will in April debut “El Rey Network Presents: The Director’s Chair,” a ten-part series featuring interviews between Rodriguez and “the industry’s most notable directors.” John Carpenter will be among those featured in the series, which will feature hour-long episodes and will debut in April.

El Rey is an English-language network ostensibly aimed at young men, with programming curated by Rodriguez, who has a reputation for action-based films with a strong Hispanic sensibility. The network has its origins in a mandate given to Comcast to distribute minority-owned networks as part of its purchase of NBCUniversal in early 2011.  El Rey is is owned by Rodriguez and entertainment incubator FactoryMade Ventures with minority backing by Univision Communications.

During a presentation to reporters in New York Monday, executives sketched out a marketing plan that aimed to use Rodriguez’ reputation as a maverick to generate demand from viewers as well as interest from the creative community. El Rey launched  on Comcast and Time Warner Cable systems January 1, and has touted itself as a means for advertisers to reach the young males who often prove tough to find with more traditional TV fare.

Even acquired programming will be filtered through Rodriguez’ sensibility, said Scott Sassa, vice chairman of El Rey. Viewers have so many options, he said, that even filler programs must have a reason for being on air. El Rey would rather have “context,” said Sassa, than just a show that generates some level of ratings. Among the series El Rey has acquired are “Starsky & Hutch” and “Miami Vice.”

After striking a deal with General Motors in December, El Rey has put together another one with Heineken USA. Under the terms of the pact, the brewer’s Dos Equis beer will be woven into “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series,” where the storyline will feature scenes at a bar.The network will also created specific content for Heineken that can run on El Rey,

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