TITLE: SVP, Affiliate Distribution and Marketing, NUVOtv and Fuse
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Her 23-plusyear cable career began with nine years in finance and distribution at Disney Channel , followed by nine years in senior executive positions at AMC Networks.
QUOTE: “If I look at my path, I’ve been associated with some great and powerful companies who have taken their content to the next level. And now with NUVO and Fuse, I know we’ll achieve the same greatness here.”
As a little girl growing up in a small town outside of San Diego, Calif., Judi Lopez always knew she wanted to be in the entertainment business. Despite the urging of her successful Mexican-American parents to become an engineer, Lopez has lived out her dreams as a prominent business and network-affiliate executive for 25 years, a career that has earned her a place in the 2015 Wonder Woman class.
In fact, when Lopez, the top distribution executive at networks NUVOtv and Fuse, attends the Wonder Women luncheon on March 19, it will mark 25 years to the day she started her cable career.
Lopez first got the bug for the bright lights of entertainment and television as a 5-year-old, watching such 1970s shows as The Partridge Family and The Brady Bunch. “We were also the first ones in the neighborhood with HBO, and I remember the first thing I watched on HBO was Mel Brooks’s Silent Movie. When you remember the first movie you watched on a premium channel, that has an impact. The cable and television side was always fascinating to me.”
A WOULD-BE ENGINEER
Her parents, successful educators in the area, had other ideas and wanted her to become an engineer. She would eventually attend California Polytechnic State University in Pomona and graduate with a bachelor’s of science in business administration.
Lopez relocated to Los Angeles, where she would eventually work as an auditor for then-startup Disney Channel, at the time a premium service. When the network decided to convert to basic, she lobbied Disney executives to allow her to use her finance skills in affiliate sales as a representative for the Northwest territory, including Alaska and Washington state.
She quickly became one of the network’s most successful sales reps. “When you love what you’re doing and you’re good at it, things start to fall in place in life,” she said.
Lopez would eventually build on her affiliate duties by heading up the company’s C-band home-satellite business and leading the team that negotiated Disney’s first carriage deals with DirecTV and Dish Network.
At Dish, she first met her future boss, NUVOtv CEO Michael Schwimmer, then the satellite provider’s senior vice president of programming and marketing.
Lopez’s Disney career would eventually take her to New York. In 1999, she went to work for Bravo, then owned by Rainbow Media Holdings. Once again, Lopez was in a position to help build a network brand, an underdog role she said she has relished over her 25-year cable career.
“It was interesting to transfer my skill set to help them build their brand,” she said. “When you’re the underdog, you have to work harder to get the attention of both the consumer and the cable world, and we fought for everything we had.”
In 2009 Schwimmer — who had become CEO of upstart Hispanic-targeted network Sí TV — approached Lopez about a position as the network’s senior vice president of affiliate sales and marketing. Lopez jumped at the opportunity.
“Michael knew my background, and he also knew I was the perfect demographic and I could really help make a difference in their distribution, and he was right,” she said. “The profile fit personally and it was the right time in my career — I had almost 20 years of building brands.”
Schwimmer said Lopez’s work ethic and skill set were perfect for the independent cable network, which last year added music network Fuse to its portfolio. “She combines a high degree of professionalism with a deep commitment to serve our network’s target Latino audience,” he said.
Lopez said working for an independent startup has been “tough” but rewarding, particularly with a network servicing a growing and committed Hispanic audience. Since her arrival, NUVOtv has more than doubled its subscriber base to moret than 30 million.
Lopez oversaw NUVOtv’s 2011 rebranding from Sí TV, and was instrumental in the network’s relaunch following its high-profile recruitment of chief creative officer (and part-owner) Jennifer Lopez. “My parents were always the first in line for a lot of things — we were one of the first Mexican-American families in our neighborhood — and within my jobs I was one of the few employees with a Latin last name, so I’ve always been part of paving the way for a new generation and a new voice,” Judi Lopez, who is not related to J-Lo, said.
UPLIFTING VIA EDUCATION
“To see that reflected on television, in the mission that NUVO has, is part of extending what my parents were doing as educators — uplifting Latinos through education. And now I get to do it through media. It’s part of my DNA.”
Lopez also looks to help other women and minorities achieve the same level of success, having served as treasurer for the T. Howard Foundation’s board of directors and as a member and mentor with the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC) and Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT).
She advises the next generation of would-be executives to know the business from all perspectives, to sharpen their leadership skills, to be unafraid of making mistakes and to love what you do and know what you’re good at.
Lopez, who has an 8-year-old son, Cameron, said she hopes to continue to love the work that she does. “Hopefully the next chapter will be challenging, but I hope to love what I do with the skills that I have that I can translate and grow into whatever needs to be done.”
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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.