Launched in 2013, El Rey Network at its peak reached over 40 million pay-TV households. The cable channel, stocked with a range of English-language scripted and unscripted programming catering to Latino audiences and beyond, shut down at the end of 2020.
In partnership with Cinedigm, El Rey Network will relaunch as a free-to-watch over-the-top streaming service available on platforms including connected TVs, digital set-top boxes, media-streaming devices and the web. In addition, Cinedigm will work with El Rey to ink deals with advertisers for custom content. Cinedigm also will exclusively distribute Rodriguez’s feature film “Red 11” and a companion docuseries, “Rebel Without A Crew: The Robert Rodriguez Film School,” to OTT platforms.
The date of the El Rey Network streaming channel launch has yet to be determined.
The companies claimed El Rey’s forthcoming return as an OTT channel marks the first time a cable TV network has pivoted “completely” from linear to streaming. However, NBCUniversal’s G4 TV game and fandom network, after lying dormant for almost six years, has been relaunched this year by Comcast’s Spectacor sports division with G4 content across a series of digital platforms.
“El Rey has always been a network for the people — a mainstream outlet where we discover diverse, independent voices,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “The fact that we can also now make our catalog of kick-ass programming available for free to all gives me enormous joy.”
He added: “As audiences move deliberately to streaming, it was important for me to democratize our platform so that the masses have the opportunity to see themselves in our lineup of curated, inclusive and entertaining content. This is a huge win in every way, and I want to thank Cinedigm for putting fans first with this new alliance.”
Programming on El Rey Network is curated by Rodriguez (“From Dusk Till Dawn,” “Sin City,” “Spy Kids,” “Machete”) and his creative partners. Featured shows include Rodriguez’s “The Director’s Chair,” featuring interviews with creatives like John Carpenter and Quentin Tarantino; “Rebel Without a Crew: The Series,” in which filmmakers set out to make their first feature under Rodriguez’s guidance; a library of unscripted franchises including “The Chuey Martinez Show”; and feature films spanning such genres as grindhouse, cult classic action, horror and sci-fi.
“Red 11,” based on Rodriguez’s experiences in a medical research facility to finance his first feature film, “El Mariachi,” had its world premiere at SXSW. The movie is set in a dark, twisted world of legal drug research where college kids become lab rats to make quick money. Written, produced and directed by the filmmaker, “Red 11” was co-written with Rodriguez’s son Racer Max and went on to play in the Directors’ Fortnight section at the Cannes Film Festival.
Cinedigm’s partnership with El Rey allows the channel to broaden its digital footprint, as well as expand the access of its programming to audiences, said Erick Opeka, Cinedigm’s president and chief strategy officer. “We’re excited to be stepping in at this important moment alongside the passion, dedication and forward-thinking vision that Robert Rodriguez brings to the table,” Opeka said.
Cinedigm also touts advertising partnerships with demand-side partners like Magnite (SpotX/Springserve), Comcast’s FreeWheel, Verizon Media and Xander. That will allow the El Rey OT channel to generate ad revenue from targeted demographics in the growing ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) and free, ad-supported television (FAST) sectors, Opeka said.
El Rey Network is jointly owned by Rodriguez and FactoryMade Ventures. At one point, Univision held a a minority stake in the venture; the Hispanic media giant in November 2020 sold its stake in El Rey to focus on Spanish-language programming.
“We look forward to working with Chris McGurk and his incredible team at Cinedigm to further engage audiences and align with smart marketing partners to create memorable, custom content that breaks through the clutter,” FactoryMade Ventures CEO John Fogelman said in a statement.