El Rey Network Takes Aim at ‘Strivers’

El Rey Network, the male-centric channel founded by director Robert Rodriguez to reach Latinos and others in the 18-to-49 demo, wants to expand its base by reaching out to working-class men of all backgrounds, a reaction in part to the surprising election of Donald Trump as the next president.

The network’s target group, dubbed “strivers,” represents working- and middleclass male viewers who defy typical age and race metrics to represent more of a sociographic class, network president and general manager Daniel Tibbets said. He pointed to a recent Wall Street Journal report stating that this group of Hispanic, black and Asian workers, ages 18 to 63, with less than a bachelor’s degree level of education, is projected to represent the majority of U.S. workers by 2032.

Tibbets, former chief operating officer of digital content service Machinima, spoke with Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead about the 45-million subscriber network’s new brand positioning and its plans to increase original programming by 50%, both on the linear channel and on social media platforms.

MCN:How would you currently define the El Rey Network brand and target audience?

Daniel Tibbets: I would define it as a multiplatform brand that represents the voices, tastes, lifestyle and attitude of culturally diverse people everywhere. It has been, and continues to be, positioned in a very authentic viewpoint as representing America, which is very diverse — something I don’t think entertainment companies have done that authentically right.

Today, you hear a lot about diversity and a lot about companies saying, “Oh we have to go there.” That’s not authentic. When Robert created this network, he created it because he wanted to have people like him represented on the screen in the right way. So when we think about development and programming production, and even our operation as a whole, we’re living, breathing and talking about that point of view in the right way.

What we’re starting to say now is that our audience is working-class America, which is now becoming middleclass America. So that working-class, middle-class America is the social-economic status that we’re seeing.

One of the leading factors of this, which I think is not being addressed in the market today, is that by 2032 the majority of the working class/new middle class of America will be the minorities in this country, and it’s being led by Latinos. We’re calling our audience strivers because when you look at who is ultimately watching our network, that’s who they are.

We’re not going away from our Latino heritage or positioning. It’s the simple fact that our audience, from a social-cultural-economic standpoint, is growing and it’s growing to be more diverse.

MCN:How do you sell the network’s more sociographic focus to advertisers who are predominantly looking to reach viewers by demographic?

DT: What I’m finding is, advertisers are more interested in following the consumer across dayparts and devices. So, if I know I’m going after a particular psychographic consumer — which is more valuable to me as an advertiser, because I know exactly who they are and know their buying habits and what they’re interested in — then the question is, how am I tracking while they’re using mobile or the computer while they’re watching TV?

We’re following that consumer and providing them the information about my brand, and that’s more valuable at the end of the day to advertisers. We know who that consumer is and we know that they skew African-American and Latino, and we know that they’re watching the brand across multiple platforms.

Right now, our total audience viewership is more than 50% minorities — African-American, Latino and Asian. So we made a strategic decision to focus the brand voice on this new working class and middle class we define as diverse people that live by a code and are going to leave their mark. They create their own lane and they’re not following the status quo. They’re looking to achieve independence; they excel at a craft. When you say working class, I think a lot of advertisers identify with that.

MCN:How will El Rey’s content reflect the network’s new brand identity?

DT: I think what the election kind of highlighted is that working-class America goes home. They want to click on the TV and they want to be entertained. El Rey does that very well, whether it’s through kung fu and action movies or original series like [wrestling series] Lucha Underground — it’s escapism.

We’re making a big commitment to do even more original programming in 2017, which we’re going to talk about after the first of the year. But all that development is falling into the lines of our commitment to target strivers and feature diversity in our programming.

We’re going to be moving into non-scripted lifestyle programming that again represents the hobbies and interests of strivers … one can imagine the docuseries that we can move into. Scripted of course will remain a big foundation of the network. We will continue to talk about some new scripted series in 2017.

MCN:Will you look to be aggressive in developing programming in the digital space?

DT: There will also be original content creation that absolutely represents our brand and our audience in digital and social media. We want to develop content that creates interest and excitement for the brand on Facebook Live or Snapchat or YouTube — whatever the digital platform is — but also creates awareness and viewership for the network as a whole. It becomes more of a content brand strategy.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.