The Austin Chronicle

Robert Rodriguez Strikes First-Look Deal With HBO Max

By Richard Whittaker, August 18, 2021, 2:00pm, Picture in Picture

Robert Rodriguez is a cinema guy, but he's also a streaming guy. Having wrapped filming on season one of his Disney+ Star Wars spinoff, The Book of Boba Fett, this week he announced two big new deals: a first-look agreement with HBO Max, and a new streaming home for his TV network, El Rey, as a free-with-advertising channel on Roku.

The Austin-based filmmaker behind the Machete and Spy Kids franchises, whose Troublemaker Studios facility has been such a vital element of the local film scene for the last two decades, confirmed last week in an interview with the L.A. Times that he has signed a two-year first look deal with Warner's streaming arm.

As for El Rey, the relaunch comes from a new partnership between the network and LA-based streaming firm and distributor Cinedigm. In an interview with Deadline, Roku VP of Programming Rob Holmes confirmed that the advertising-driven channel is available now, with all 150 hours of original El Rey content, including Rodriguez's low-budget experiment Red 11, which screened at SXSW 2019.

The El Rey network, aimed at Hispanic and Latino audiences, launched in 2013 with a slate of original content in its opening year, including football spy drama Matador, interview show The Director's Chair, luchador wrestling fantasy Lucha Underground, and the TV reboot of From Dusk Til Dawn. Over time, it moved to more repertory material, especially the kind of grindhouse movies that had inspired Rodriguez early in his career.

However, declining audiences (in no small part due to industry factors reducing the number of households it had access to from 40 million to only 13 million) made it less viable as a network, and in January it ceased broadcasting. That's when former minority partner Univision started shopping its content around.

Enter Roku, which already hosts a huge amount of content through the Roku Channel, and earlier this year picked up the back catalog of the now-defunct Quibi. Roku Channel Director of AVOD Ashley Hovey told the Times that the deal will allow Roku to meet the "growing demand for engaging, high quality Latinx entertainment."

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