Univision Inks Deal With El Rey, Comes Out Swinging at English-Language Nets

Enrique Iglesias performs at upfront presentation

Univision's evp of ad sales Steve Mandala may have left NBCUniversal barely a year ago, but his new home's upfront presentation wasn't at all shy about playing up the Spanish-language broadcaster's sweeps victory over the Peacock. At one point, an animated broom swept the NBC logo off the presentation screen.

The growing network, Mandala pitched, is a place where the general market and the Spanish market "unites in a total-market approach," given the preponderance of Hispanic viewers in every sector. Mandala also delivered direct appeals to specific categories. "If you're in the wireless business, we have growth in a very mature market," he said, "and if you're in the beverage business, we define growth."

The English-language nets, he said, "all seem to be asking for more in the face of declining audiences." It's a pitch many in the audience had heard before—namely at every cable upfront presentation since the rodeo began in February—but Univision is the first broadcaster to make it.

And they pushed it hard, too. The math, Mandala, said, was simple enough for kids to do. The presentation's centerpiece (well, aside from the ad sales team doing The Harlem Shake and networks president Cesar Conde entering flanked by dancers in light-up suits) was a video featuring Falco and several kids in an elementary school classroom discussing pricing.

"If you went into a donut shop, and you paid $2 for a donut, and you only got half a donut, what would you do?" Falco asked the kids. "I'd tell the manager and I'd get my money back," one proclaimed.

Univision also had a major announcements on the programming front—and a very odd one. The network is partnering with Robert Rodriguez, director of, among many others, Planet Terror, Sin City, and El Mariachi, as well as his network El Rey.

Rodriguez's network was a court-mandated function of the merger between Comcast and NBCUniversal two years ago—in order to approve the business deal, the Federal Communications Commission required Comcast to launch several networks owned by a member of an ethnic minority. Diddy, Magic Johnson, and Constantino Schwarz signed on to run the others, but Rodriguez's contribution was by far the most promising. "It's been very difficult to work out, but it works, and the content is great," said one exec at the upfront.

Univision is responsible for back office operations, sales and distribution—basically the day-to-day at the network, with Rodriguez at the helm, green-lighting material including a new scripted series based on the Rodriguez/ Tarantino flick From Dusk Till Dawn, and another scripted series from Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (writers of the Star Trek and Transformers movies, as well as Fox's sci-fi show Fringe). “El Rey Network will serve as a launching pad to satisfy the tastes of young adults looking for exciting, cinematic, action-packed content," Rodriguez said in a statement.

It's the second unexpected and high-profile deal involving El Rey this week—the network gained an executive on Monday, Scott Sassa, who left Hearst last month after a blackmail scandal.