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Latin Media Leaders: Fox’s Billion-Dollar Man

MOST INFLUENTIAL INTERNATIONAL EXECUTIVE

HERNAN LOPEZ, PRESIDENT AND CEO, FOX INTERNATIONAL CHANNELS

Hernan Lopez is Fox International Channels billion-dollar man. Having worked at Canal 9 and Cablevision in Argentina, he joined Fox in 1997, becoming general manager of Fox Latin America in 2000. Since then he has risen up the ranks and now runs Fox’s whole 350-plus channel operation as well as the numerous related production units.

The Fox channels boss has told the finance community that FIC will generate US$1 billion in operating profit by mid-2015 and he says that the company is very much on track to hit that number.

2012 was, the Fox executive says, a banner year: “For the first 19 years of FIC [it hits 20 in August] we were focused on entertainment and then on factual and then on lifestyle – last year was transformative in that it was the year that we became a significant player in sports.”

Lopez says the move into sport and creation of FIC Sports has been a long-held ambition of his, noting that channel operators that can offer sorts alongside factual and entertainment can extract better positioning on cable and satellite platforms.

At the end of 2011 FIC bought HM Partners’ majority interest in Fox Pan American Sports, clearing the way for the launch of Fox Sports in Brasil last February.

FIC also now manages the syndication of Fox Sports content worldwide and as the new forays into sport take shape, Fox Sports will be the brand of choice, except where there are strong legacy brands. Last year News Corp. also bought ESPN out of the ESPN Star Sports joint venture in Asia, for example, and in that case the brand is likely to be Star Sports, not Fox.

The FIC approach to sports rights is different to that of other media groups in that it has sought an ownership position, rather than paying a huge premium to license rights for the typical three-year period.

“It’s expensive and really hard to get sports rights and you seldom get to own them,” Lopez says. “But we have tried to do longer deals and to become partners with the rights owners. One example is Dutch football.”

In December, FIC’s acquisition of a majority stake in Dutch sports firm EMM was rubber-stamped by local regulators. EMM, which was established by the 18 clubs of Eredivisie, the Dutch Premier League, Endemol and the Dutch national football association KNVB, is responsible for exploiting the collective media and sponsorship rights on behalf of Eredivisie.

The Dutch deal saw FIC mirror the strategy of parent company News Corp., which bought 49% of the New York Yankees baseball club’s TV channel, the Yes Network in 2012.

If sport was high on FIC’s agenda last year, so was the launch and roll out of lifestyle channels. With Fox Life in various territories, Utilisima in Latin America, Star World in Asia and Fox Kitchen in Europe, FIC has a four-pronged approach to capturing viewers in the female-skewing lifestyle category.

“A lot of our channels are male-skewing and the lifestyle category is fairly young for us, but it rounds off our offering to advertisers,” Lopez says.

FIC also took full control of National Geographic Channel International and its content sales arm in late 2011 and last year, under Lopez’s stewardship, a new programming hub was created in London. “I made the decision to move the international side of the business to London. We wanted a direct presence in a market that produces some of the best factual content in the world and if you see something like Wicked Tuna, that is precisely the kind of show that defines the new Nat Geo.”

The other major launch in 2012 was of US Hispanic net MundoFox, a joint venture with Colombia’s RCN that launched in August.

But why enter such a crowded space?

“Spanish-language television hasn’t changed much in the past 10 years and the telenovela is a style of storytelling that hasn’t evolved at the same pace as English-speaking viewing,” Lopez says. “MundoFox looks and feels like US television, but it just happens to be in Spanish. We’re in half of US Hispanic homes now and advertisers really like the offering.”

This year then is about delivering on the sports, lifestyle and US Hispanic initiatives while tending to the core entertainment nets.

The financial indicators are positive. In its last full-year results, News Corp. said earnings from its cable channels were up 31% reflecting growth at FIC and Star in Asia. FIC had an estimated operating income of US$600 million in fiscal 2012.

“2013 is about consolidating what we have,” Lopez says. “And we are on track to it the [US$1 billion] target by fiscal 2015,” he adds.

 

LATIN MEDIA LEADERS 2012/13

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT: ENRIQUE R. MARTINEZ, DISCOVERY LAT-AM

MOST SUCCESSFUL US HISPANIC EXECUTIVE: CESAR CONDE, UNIVISION

MOST INFLUENTIAL INTERNATIONAL EXECUTIVE: HERNAN LOPEZ, FOX

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: PEDRO LEDA, LEADFILMS

MOST INFLUENTIAL PRODUCTION COMPANY: DANIEL GUTMAN, POWWOW

BEST TELENOVELA: EVA LUNA

BEST FORMAT: CAIGA QUIEN CAIGA, EYEWORKS CUATRO CABEZAS

BEST DOCUMENTARY: EXTREME PLANET, GLOBO TV

BEST FORMAT: CAIGA QUIEN CAIGA, EYEWORKS CUATRO CABEZAS

DIGITAL INNOVATOR: HBO LATIN AMERICA

BEST SCRIPTED FORMAT: TERMINALES