Add "television executive" to the list of occupations held by the entrepreneurial J. Lo.
Jennifer Lopez, the popular singer, dancer, actress and former "American Idol" judge, is taking a minority stake in Nuvo TV, the cable- and satellite-delivered network aimed at Latinos seeking English-language entertainment.
"There is no English network that really focuses on our story," said Ms. Lopez in an interview with Ad Age .
Terms of the deal and the size of her stake in the business were not disclosed, but the agreement calls for Ms. Lopez to be involved in developing program ideas, marketing initiatives and more, said Michael Schwimmer, Nuvo's CEO. The two sides have been in discussions about a partnership for about a year, he said. Ms. Lopez announced in July that she would not return to Fox's venerable "American Idol" after serving as a judge for two years.
Media companies continue to see growing potential in Latin American and Hispanic audiences. In recent months, News Corp. has launched a Spanish-language network aimed at battling Univision and NBC Universal's Telemundo, while Walt Disney and Univision have unveiled plans to launch an English-language cable-news network aimed at Hispanic audiences.
Nuvo, which counts Rho Capital Partners and Columbia Capital among its lead investors, has also been taking strides to be more competitive. In March of 2011, the network changed its name to Nuvo TV from Si TV as part of an effort to better attract what it called the "bicultural Latino" demographic found among Latinos and Hispanics born in the United States. The network reaches 30 million homes but is still working to reach full distribution across cable, satellite and telco carriers.
"Television for Latinos has been equated with Spanish, and that 's sort of outdated," said Mr. Schwimmer, who said research suggests modern Latino viewers favor English-language programming.
Indeed, Ms. Lopez, who has long called attention to her roots growing up as a Puerto Rican in the Bronx, said as a child she wished there was more such entertainment on TV. She recalled just a handful of options, such as "West Side Story" or Luis and Maria, the Spanish-speaking characters played by actors Sonia Manzano and Emilio Delgado on "Sesame Street " since the early 1970s. "I loved those things and there just weren't enough of them," she said.
Ms. Lopez and her Nuyorican Productions production company will develop programs for Nuvo. A music special based on her current concert tour is in the works, Mr. Schwimmer said. Ms. Lopez said she will also appear on air "when it's right for the network and for me."
The move isn't meant to create another OWN, the Discovery Communications joint venture with Opran Winfrey that has generated questions about attempting to base an entire network on one personality. Nuvo intends to continue programming the network in line with its business plan, said Mr. Schwimmer, and will not become a network focused largely on Ms. Lopez.
"She will promote the network and she will promote her shows on the network," he said. She will also assist in talking with "the advertising community and our distribution partners as we try to grow," he added.
For her part, Ms. Lopez said her move into this business marked a natural step. "I'm in this business and I do know this business on many different levels -- in music, in television, in film production, and as an actress, and in so many different ways, even in fashion," she said. "It's kind of right up my alley."
Nuvo isn't the first business concern to enlist a celebrity's aid and promotional power in exchange for a piece of the operation. Before it became part of the Coca-Cola empire, Glaceau -- best known for its Vitaminwater and Smartwater beverage lines -- offered stakes in the company to such celebrity pitchmen as 50 Cent and Red Sox player David Ortiz in exchange for promotion and marketing help.