While El Rey Network was originally created to serve millennial Latinos, the brand has realized it is actually appealing to a much larger market share. El Rey is calling its audience “strivers,” middle-class American men, who value family, hard work, independence and legacy.

These strivers, who are racially and age diverse, are projected  to become the “majority minority” by 2032, with a large percentage of the group identifying as Latino. El Rey president/gm Daniel Tibbets says the media overall needs to do better in serving diverse audiences. According to an El Rey Network Diversity Report, persons of color represent just 19 percent of major film and 26 percent of main TV roles, even though they make us 38 percent of the U.S. population—a statistic that is increasing each year. El Rey Network has made a goal to promote diversity by setting benchmarks of 20 percent of crew members and 40 percent of all original programming casts to be persons of color.

For Tibbets and team, it’s all about shifting viewpoints from a network to a brand. “That’s what we are doing as a company, how we take El Rey from a company brand, and a show brand with [series] ‘Lucha Underground’…  to a brand that people will wear on their shirts, they’ll go to events and participate on social,” he said. “We have a unique benefit in that we have both a company brand and a show brand that have meaning and purpose on the marketplace. You’d be hard-pressed to find other networks that have both.”

Rather than changing its programming lineup, the network is doubling down on what’s already working with these so-called strivers. It will continue to bring action content to viewers, with original series “From Dusk to Dawn,” and “Lucha Underground.” It will increase output of original hours of programming by 50 percent for next year, Tibbets said. Also on the horizon are new marketing campaigns, including social marketing initiative, “Ride for Health.” The social cause aims to improve awareness of the importance of health for strivers, who tend to forgo doctor visits until they are sick. Tibbets said health is important to strivers because, “If you can’t work [due to illness], you can’t provide for your family.”

2016 has been a rocky year for some independent cable networks, with Al Jazeera America and Pivot shutting down, and more recently One World Sports struggling to find a buyer. Still, Tibbets was positive about life as an independent with El Rey now accessible to more than 45 million homes.  Cord-cutting may be on the rise, but he sees it as opportunity. “When one system shifts and people choose to have lower cost packages, there’s an opportunity for networks like El Rey,” he said. He said that brand identity will become increasingly important as consumers have more choice in which networks they want to watch as more move to skinny bundles and OTT providers.

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