Screenwriter Roberto Orci ("Star Trek Into Darkness") is penning an action series centered on a Latino James Bond-like figure. FactoryMade also is developing programming centered on lucha libre professional wrestling, which is enormously popular in Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries. The company has a deal to launch a U.S. wrestling league.
Rodriguez is chairman and chief executive of the new network. But Fogelman and Patwa are the ones making key business decisions, such as hiring Scott Sassa to serve as El Rey's vice chairman.
Sassa, a longtime TV executive, departed his post as president of Hearst Entertainment & Syndication in March after published reports concerning his entanglement with a stripper.
"We are not one to judge," said Patwa, noting that Rodriguez cast Lindsay Lohan in his 2010 movie "Machete" and Charlie Sheen in the upcoming sequel "Machete Kills."
Hiring Sassa wasn't the first time Fogelman and Patwa trusted their instincts. Their departure from William Morris Endeavor — which was formed by the merger of William Morris Agency and Endeavor in April 2009 — was a surprise. Fogelman was an architect of the historic merger and held a seat on the new agency's board. He was trading a lucrative and secure position for the unknown.
"It was a courageous move," said David Zaslav, chief executive of Discovery Communications Inc., who worked with Fogelman when he was an agent. "Not everyone gets a second act, but John is on his way to have a very satisfying one that is maybe closer to what he wants do with his life."
Fogelman got to know Patwa about five years ago while courting her to leave Disney/ABC Television Group, where she was director of business development. At the time, Fogelman was assembling a team at William Morris Agency to help create a TV network for client Hasbro, and persuaded Patwa to join his group.
The Hub Network, a partnership of the toy maker and Discovery, launched in 2010 and gave Fogelman and Patwa a sense of what they could accomplish together.
After working on the Hub, Fogelman and Patwa turned their attention to client HSN Inc., spearheading its effort to launch HSN Arcade, the shopping company's e-commerce platform. The service, which debuted in 2011, was Fogelman's tipping point.
"After we created HSN Arcade, I wasn't excited to put movies together anymore, or television shows, or trying to sign a client," said Fogelman. "It was just too sexy, quite frankly, to go into this world of the unknown."
El Rey has competition. Two other networks are also going after the Latino market with English-language content. Cable channel NuvoTV, which launched in 2004 as Si TV before rebranding, boasts 32 million subscribers and a creative partnership with Jennifer Lopez. Fusion, a news-centric channel started by Disney/ABC and Univision, debuts this fall.
Financial support from Univision is helping El Rey pursue its ambitious plans. In May, the powerhouse Spanish-language media company acquired a 5% stake in El Rey for $2.6 million, according to regulatory filings, and let El Rey borrow $72.4 million. Univision provides El Rey with operational support and is arranging distribution of the network with cable providers — which Fogelman and Patwa said could double El Rey's reach within a year.
Randy Falco, chief executive of Univision, said El Rey's success will come from its ability to go beyond a niche appeal.
"It will be done with a lens of inclusiveness that will go beyond Latinos," Falco said. "I think that will be the special sauce."