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Netflix changed media forever. Can this streamer bring the revolution to Latino audiences?

Wendy Lee, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

The Edward James Olmos movie "Windows on the World," about a Mexican family's ordeal during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was scheduled to open on 100 theater screens nationwide this summer. Then, the novel coronavirus struck and shut down cinemas worldwide.

So the film's producers scrambled to find another way to release the movie. They settled on a small but fast-growing streaming service called VIX. The platform has 20,000 hours of mostly Spanish-language content and has a large following in Mexico and in the United States.

"All things being equal, they were the best," said co-writer and producer Robert Mailer Anderson. "They understood the film."

The high profile release in April was another boost for VIX. The Miami-based streaming service aims to be a hub for Spanish-language films and TV shows by catering to Latinos, who are huge consumers of Hollywood productions but remain underrepresented on the big screen. The service, which is free with ads, says it has 50 million monthly visitors on its website and 5 million app installs. Its audience -- split evenly between the U.S. and Latin America -- has doubled over the last two months.

"The bulk of our content catalog and our big differentiator is the fact that we have authentically Latino content," said Chief Executive Rafael Urbina. "It touches on issues that are culturally relevant for Latino audiences. It's not just 'OK, let me switch the audio to Spanish or throw subtitles on an English language movie.'"

VIX, backed by New York-based Discovery Inc. and the Boston-based private equity firm HarbourVest Partners, was founded in 2016, initially as a hub for viral videos and stories for Latino audiences.

 

Last year, the company acquired L.A.-based streaming company Pongalo, expanding its foothold into video. With 170 employees, including 15 in Hollywood, VIX expects to generate $20 million in revenue this year, up 40% from 2019.

"Latino audiences are just coming around to the adoption of AVOD 1/8advertising-based video on demand3/8," said Rich Hull, VIX's chief strategy officer and founder of Pongalo. "For us, it's a particularly great time to come together."

Unlike major streaming services such as Netflix, most of VIX's programming, from dramas to action flicks and comedies, is in Spanish, followed by Portuguese. A handful of movies are in English with Spanish or Portuguese subtitles. Popular titles include the fantasy-action movie "El Gigante de Piedra"; the TV series "La Promesa," a drama that delves into human trafficking; and "Tarde lo Conoci," a show based on the life of singer Patricia Teheran.

Although the U.S. streaming market is increasingly crowded, VIX believes it is well positioned to grow in Latin America, as consumers embrace on-demand streaming. VIX is among the top Spanish language apps on Roku in the U.S and Latin America.

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