×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Robert Rodriguez’s El Rey Network Builds Heat With Young Latinos

For the first year of its on-air life, the El Rey Network has been about as DIY as any microbudget indie movie ever was, an apt trait, given the net’s origins.

Comcast gave filmmaker Robert Rodriguez a distribution commitment for the channel in the spring of 2013; El Rey snuck on the air with a soft launch in December, after Univision came onboard as a financing and operational partner. The Austin-based filmmaker and his team at FactoryMade Ventures effected some quick hires, and bought up as much programming as they could find — and afford — that focused on Rodriguez’s love for genre pics, 1970s pop culture (think “Starsky & Hutch”) and other cool stuff that would appeal to movie- and TV-loving millennials, particularly U.S.-born Hispanics. Rodriguez also reached out to friends including Quentin Tarantino and Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci to get a handful of original series off the ground quickly. (The launch timing was dictated by Comcast’s obligation to carry multiple minority-owned channels, per the terms of its 2011 acquisition of NBCUniversal.)

Now that they’ve made it through year one, Rodriguez and Co. are expanding the programming to include a broader range of original fare and fan-friendly ideas, such as the People’s Network initiative, which solicits material directly from viewers. Some fans who have sent in homemade El Rey promo spots have gotten calls to produce more (for a fee, of course). Rodriguez also wants to use the fan feedback loop to recruit writers and directors for El Rey original series, such as “From Dusk Till Dawn” and interview skein “The Director’s Chair.” “Filmmakers need to get training somewhere,” Rodriguez says. “That’s the only way we’re going to get the diversity in programming that (the industry) needs. We’re going to have to go outside Hollywood to find those new voices.”

Rodriguez and El Rey vice chairman Scott Sassa say it’s possible to make a business out of a cable channel built on vintage kung fu movies and low-budget chestnuts such as 1972’s “Frogs.”

El Rey is available in about 40 million homes, earning about 8¢ a month per subscriber. The channel employs about 60 fulltime staffers, with Rodriguez hands-on as programmer-in-chief. The channel has some sizzle with marketers as an outlet with a target of English-speaking Latinos.

Sassa acknowledges that El Rey’s audience isn’t as young as company execs would like. But they’re working on it with shows like “Lucha Underground,” an out-there mix of Mexican-style wrestling and folklore, produced by Mark Burnett.

“We have the elements in place, and most importantly, we have Robert as the face of the network, which gives us that authenticity,” Sassa says. “Now it’s about executing.”

More TV

  • ITV Studios Strikes International Deals for

    ITV Studios Strikes International Deals for Barcroft Shows (EXCLUSIVE)

    Discovery and Seven Network are among the international buyers for Barcroft Media series after ITV Studios’s sales arm brokered a raft of deals for the shows. Barcroft runs a suite of YouTube and digital channels and has short and mid-form content on platforms including Facebook Watch. It has had success repurposing these shorter shows into [...]

  • HBO Asia and Catchplay Team up

    HBO Asia and Catchplay Team up for ‘The World Between Us’

    Pan-regional pay-TV group HBO Asia and Taiwan-based streaming video company Catchplay are to jointly distribute Taiwanese crime drama “The World Between Us.” The 10-part series will air from March. Directed by award-winning filmmaker Lin Chun-Yang (“The Soul If Bread”) and written by the Lu Shih-Yuan (“Dear Ex”), “World” plunges into the aftermath of a mass [...]

  • BTF Media, Vince Gerardis Pact Sign

    NATPE: BTF Media, Vince Gerardis Pact for Six Projects (EXCLUSIVE)

    MIAMI — BTF Media, producer of breakout series “Hasta Que te Conocí” and “El Secreto de Selena,” is teaming with Vince Gerardis, a co-executive producer with George Martin on “Game of Thrones,” on a six-project co-production alliance. Spearheaded at BTF Media by founder-partner Ricardo Coeto, the agreement takes in the development and co-production of the [...]

  • First Look at SAG Awards' Cuban

    First Look at SAG Awards' Cuban-Inspired After-Party (EXCLUSIVE)

    Celebrities at this year’s SAG Awards won’t have to go far for some tropical fun. Sunday’s annual post-show gala, hosted by People magazine for the 23rd year, is set to feature a Cuban-themed party space adjacent to the Shrine Auditorium. “We’re kind of going back to more of a thematic element. I have some close [...]

  • Young Tony Soprano in 'Sopranos' Movie:

    James Gandolfini's Son Michael Gandolfini Cast as Tony Soprano in 'Sopranos' Movie

    Michael Gandolfini, son of the late James Gandolfini, will play the young Tony Soprano in “The Many Saints of Newark,” the  prequel movie to the television series “The Sopranos.” “It’s a profound honor to continue my dad’s legacy while stepping into the shoes of a young Tony Soprano,” Gandolfini said. “I’m thrilled that I am [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content