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Fox’s Hispanic Commitment Comes from the Top

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Until April 28, Rupert Murdoch had never set foot in Miami.

It took his commitment to Latino television consumers and the annual Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies conference, focused on Hispanic marketing and advertising, to get the 21st Century Fox chairman and CEO to make his first trip here.

Based on his assessment of the city, and of his company’s vow to wow Latinos, chances are it won’t be his last trip to El Gran Miami.

“Miami is a glorious, vibrant city -- a city that certainly awakes your senses and a city that is the symbol of the new America,” Murdoch told the standing-room only crowd of conference attendees in an opening keynote that not only touched on his desire to win over Latinos to Fox Hispanic Media’s stable of broadcast and pay TV offerings, but also of his respect to the Hispanic community.

“Hispanics are here to stay,” Murdoch said. “They are not only risk-takers business-wise, but also a big U.S. market influence.” In particular, he said that the Latino demographic is fueling advertiser and broadcaster interest in millennials. Some 65%of Hispanic adults are aged 22-32, Murdoch said.

Murdoch also noted that one in three freshmen admitted to the class of 2018 in the University of California system are Latino. “This has an enormous and immediate impact on U.S. media and advertising,” he said.

It’s perhaps one of the key reasons Murdoch has invested heavily in Spanish-language television, with MundoFox set to celebrate two years on the air this August and pay network Fox Life just six months into its rebranding from Utilisima. But, he admitted, “The Hispanic market is not an easy market to crack.”

Tackling that opportunity has come down to delivering more choices to Hispanics, Murdoch said. “There is still a large opportunity … and that opportunity is based on choice. We are providing more choices. The Hispanic television market is no different than any other underserved market, and we have worked hard to understand the audience.”

Through its partnership with Colombia-based RCN, Fox created Fox Hispanic Media with the expressed intent of filling the “clear gap” between what viewers wanted compared to what was in the market. To Murdoch, that meant an increased number of shows focused on nature and the planet, along with shows “with families that look like their own.”

MundoFox has taken its share of criticism from disappointed advertisers following a heavily promoted launch that failed to deliver immediate results. Murdoch addressed the hits and misses at MundoFox, in particular, noting, “It’s much harder to find an audience for a comedy hit than for a football match.”

He then took the opportunity to promote the Fox Deportes network, proclaiming that “Hispanics are hard-wired to be drawn to sports.”

Meanwhile, Murdoch likened Latinos’ over-indexing of frequent cinema attendance to their desire for quality family-friendly programming in Spanish. “The importance of community and family is high among Hispanics, and they view going to the movies as a good way to spend time together. It’s the same with TV,” he said.

But Murdoch made note of a statistic that begs the question of when, if not if, Fox Life or MundoFox will roll out its first unique-to-market animated series. “Animation is the favorite movie category among Hispanics, with 42% of Hispanics and 32% of non-Hispanics selecting the film genre as their most-preferred,” he said.

PUSH FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM

Although Murdoch did not intend to make a political speech at the AHAA conference, that’s precisely what transpired when he was asked what 21st Century Fox, as a media company, and the nation could do to “make this better.”

“The answer -- support broad immigration reform,” Murdoch said, receiving a standing ovation while assailing “the stupidity of political candidates of turning their back on the Hispanic market.” He then called for an end to the cap on H1B visas and suggested Hispanics are the needed catalyst for the nation’s full economic recovery from the Great Recession of the late 2000s. “We will not get out of this recession until we give people like Hispanics the freedom to start small businesses,” he said.

Following his address to AHAA conference attendees, Murdoch then participated in a Q&A conducted by Sol Trujillo, most recently CEO of Australian telecom giant Telstra Corporation and perhaps best known for his five years as CEO of US West Communications in the late 1990s. Addressing a reporter’s question about the rise of OTT content for Hispanics, Murdoch praised the rise of the smartphone as a video delivery device. “Keep adopting, and be sensitive to the changes that are happening,” Murdoch said. “What digital allows every company to do is to have a direct relationship with each consumer. The use of laptops is not really increasing, and the iPad is not really growing. Smartphone use is going through the roof. What all that means could end there.”

Asked further if over-the-top viewership will one day make cable television antiquated, Murdoch commented, “I can’t say, but I would guess the answer is, ‘Yes.’ Capacity is one thing, but the greatest thing about it is mobility. It goes to the smartphone. Will cable disappear and will everyone watch TV online? I can’t say for sure, but mobility is key.”

Meanwhile, Trujillo criticized the English-language broadcast networks for their lack of Latino news anchors. 

In other highlights from the AHAA annual conference, Latin pop superstar Prince Royce chatted about his role as a judge on the second season of Telemundo’s La Voz Kids in addition to his recent endorsement deal with Pepsi, which he says “just happened naturally.”

In a keynote address to open the second day of the three-day confab, acclaimed filmmaker Robert Rodriguez -- founder of the fledgling pay TV offering El Rey Network -- won over the hearts of attendees by declaring that “creativity can really just happen.” Speaking of how he got into films and of his breakout release, El Mariachi, Rodriguez spoke passionately of how connecting and uniting Latinos can positively affect the Hispanic community as a whole.

Rodriguez also noted that strong curated content is core to El Rey’s strategy, adding, “I really cultivate the diversity in front of and behind the camera.” He also wasn’t shy to admit that El Rey Network was action-packed and even “gory” and “renegade, bad-ass TV” focused on male Hispanic millennials.