Monday, May 12, was the start of an exceptionally hectic week for Jennifer Lopez. Home in New York for a few days on business, she was due back in L.A. Wednesday for the penultimate week of “American Idol”’s 13th season, then radio promo for her upcoming eighth album “A.K.A.” before heading to Vegas on Sunday, where she’ll be honored with Billboard’s Icon Award. But before she began any of that aggressive itinerary, she was on-hand for the upfront presentation of NUVOtv, the fledgling cable network geared toward Latin millennials where she was appointed chief creative officer last May. “It’s a typical week, no biggie,” Lopez said with her signature giggle, sliding into a booth with Billboard at New York’s Edison Ballroom an hour before NUVO’s upfront.
NUVOtv may be small in numbers, with distribution in just 32 million U.S. households, but it’s been in the news as of late for parent company SITV’s acquisition of Fuse in April, for $226 million. With a deal expected to be finalized in late June/early-July, according to NUVOTV CEO Michael Schwimmer’s remarks during the network’s upfront presentation, Lopez couldn’t discuss too much just yet with regard to her many plans. “Do you know how much paperwork goes into that?” she said at one point, wiping her brow in mock exasperation.
Staffers at Fuse, currently owned by MSG Media, seem to have already gotten wind of NUVO’s initial plans. Layoffs began earlier this month, according to Deadline, largely impacting the network’s Fuse News division, according to sources who spoke with Billboard. Though NUVO and Fuse will remain separate networks, Craig Geller, NUVOtv’s senior VP of ad sales, noted during the upfront, “Buying Fuse brings 73 million homes to us – it means NUVO is evolving into a broader media platform, with more opportunities for our partners.”
Fuse acquisition aside, NUVOtv unveiled a slate focused on English-language programming targeting young Latin consumers, from new seasons of reality dance series a “A Step Away” and news show “The/Collective,” a partnership with Vevo, to a slate of shows from producer Mario Lopez, including celebrity profile-based “One on One” and dance series “Love And Salsa.” Jennifer Lopez’s sister, TV journalist Lynda, will also be on hand for docuseries like “Nu Point of View” and “Los Jets,” chronicling a high school soccer team.
Billboard: It’s been almost exactly one year to the day since you joined NUVOtv as chief creative officer. How have the last 12 months been?
Jennifer Lopez: At the upfronts last year we announced our plans and our vision for NUVOtv, what we hope it to be and become. We had a big launch, the biggest [ratings] they’ve had in the history of the network. And the three months [of 2014] with “A Step Away” and the bio series went really well. Then we acquired “Dexter,” and now with the new programs we have “Los Jets,” “The/Collective,” it’s starting to take shape and form. I can’t lie, it’s an overwhelming daunting task to think about out how to shape this and keep it moving in the right direction. At the end of the day, I feel that we have focused, passionate people. I feel the team is strong and it just keeps getting stronger.
One of the hurtles to NUVOtv’s growth has been its relative size, with a lot less distribution than its competitors like Telemundo and Univision. How will the Fuse acquisition help accelerate that growth?
With the acquisition of Fuse, it’s an amazing asset for us and what that will grow into will be something to make us stronger. We can’t talk about too many details about what that is just yet. Do you know how much paperwork goes into that? [laughs] We have to wait and then we’ll be talking more about that. But the fact that it’s a music channel, which is so near and dear to my heart, I just feel I know exactly what we need to do. [giggles] We’re gonna get together and figure out what that is, once the deal is completely finished.
You’re an executive producer on several shows, Mario Lopez just announced a new slate, your sister Lynda who’s behind you right now is hosting some shows. Do you have to be named Lopez to get a job at NUVO?
You so don’t.
Lynda Lopez [in background]: Yes!
Jennifer: [laughs] Actually, yes. But no, Mario’s been a great contributor, producing his own stuff, and we get first dibs, it’s been awesome. With Lynda coming on to help me out, I needed someone who understands my sensibility but also the sensibility of this community. Someone who understands entertainment but at the same time understands sociopolitical issues as well, and music. It was like “Wait, you’re right here.” She’s been overseeing what NuAmerican brings to the table.
Will you be involved on-camera?
I am open to whatever, to be quite honest. I’ve envisioned myself in front of the camera, behind the camera, whatever aspect I need to be to make this successful.
You’re pitching advertisers today, but you happen to have relationships with a lot of brands yourself. Could any of those carry over to your role at NUVOtv?
All the knowledge that I have and experience I have in every single venture- everything helps the other. For me, it’s always a kind of learning experience and a growing experience. One can help the other in any way of course. I’ll try to bring those companies together and use my relationships to make sure everything I’m involved with can be as great as it can be.
Your joint venture with Verizon Wireless, Viva Movil, would seem like a natural fit.
It’s not bad. I love everybody there – Marni [Walden, Verizon’s chief operating officer] is my girl. We’re open to everything.