For a long time Emiliano Calemzuk was a rising star in Rupert Murdoch’s empire, 21st Century Fox. But the corporate life is now far behind him. By early 2015, he plans to have launched “a next-generation media company,” creating shows that are watched on computers, tablets, and other devices, as well as TV. Basically, he is looking for opportunities that are nontraditional.
The 42-year-old native of Argentina resigned from Shine Group (one of 21st Century’s TV production studios) in 2012 with the goal of launching an independent venture. He’d been watching and studying the rise of new digital technologies—chiefly mobile devices and high-speed Internet—and like many others, he believes the future has arrived.
People have more opportunities to watch content than ever before and are therefore consuming more content more quickly than ever. The TV production veteran realized that imminent changes in technology foretold great opportunities for new companies to emerge. “I think the changes will favor nimble start-ups over big conglomerates,” he says.
Calemzuk is looking at the world as his playing field; its viewers are his to win. His new venture will be an international organization, with Europe and Latin America being his principal markets outside of the United States. “Digital distribution will be a big part of what I do,” he says.
Over the past two years, Calemzuk tested his plan by helping to launch two series—East Los High and Los Cowboys—seen exclusively on the Internet channel Hulu, which offers a mix of free and paid-subscription video content. Both are English-language shows that focus on young Latinos living in Los Angeles. East Los High, directed by Carlos Portugal, is a teen drama. Hulu renewed the series for a third season in July of 2014 and Hollywood Reporter named it a top 10 show of the summer. Los Cowboys, a reality show created by Alex Corral, premiered in October 2014. It follows a group of urban cowboys who compete in la charrería, the Mexican rodeo.
With his new venture Calemzuk expects to produce more shows that focus on second- and third-generation Latinos in the United States, a strategy he predicts will attract strong audiences. “This is the millennial generation, the next American mainstream,” he says. “We’re talking about young people who grew up in the states but retain facets of Latin culture. They’re the fastest-growing segment of the American population.”
Calemzuk jumped into the television industry soon after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania. His first job was with Hero Productions in Miami, where he led the launch of HTV, a music television network. In 1998 he joined Murdoch’s organization—then known as News Corporation—as associate director of marketing and promotions for Fox Latin America. Soon he was rising in the empire’s ranks, becoming general manager of Fox Kids Latin America, then vice president of Fox Latin American Channels. In 2002 the company moved him to Rome. As president of Fox International Channels Europe, he managed operations in Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Turkey, and parts of Eastern Europe.
“Audiences are different in terms of cultural views, but for the most part people everywhere laugh at the same things,” he says of that experience. “Everyone around the world likes a good story.”
In 2007 he was promoted again to president of Fox Television Studios, a division that produces programming for broadcast and cable networks. Prompted by belt-tightening at the networks, he found a new way to reduce costs: several shows intended for American TV were filmed in other countries where production costs are lower, but with American writers, directors, and principal actors. “With the financial pressures we’re now facing, I thought this could become a trend,” he says. “Now other companies are doing it. It has taken off.”
Calemzuk left Fox in 2010 to become CEO of Shine America, the US division of global production and distribution company Shine Group. After working 12 years at a big corporation, he welcomed the opportunity to work at a smaller independent outfit. That’s not how things worked out, however. The founder and CEO of Shine Group is Elisabeth Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s daughter. A few months after Calemzuk stepped in, she sold the operation to 21st Century Fox.
“I was back with them,” he says. “After so many years at a big conglomerate, I felt I had to do something on my own.”
Calemzuk says he had also been hoping to cut back on business travel, to spend more time with his wife, Paola, and their daughter, Yael. At the same time, he found himself thinking back to an episode that occurred almost 20 years earlier, when a car accident put him in a coma for a brief time. “I wouldn’t blow that out of proportion,” he says, “but it does make you realize that life is short, and you’ve got to make choices.” He made the decision to leave his corporate post.
As he embarks on this new venture, it seems Calemzuk has no shortage of vision and decisions to make. Time will tell if programming geared toward Latino millennials will take over primetime, but among Hispanics (who overindex in mobility use), Calemzuk seems to have struck the perfect combination of the right place, time, and audience.