Ibra Morales completed his 97th marathon on April 21, crossing the Boston finish line in 4:25:23.
The 68-year-old president of Mundo-Fox, who views himself as more of a coach at the Spanish-language network than a president, applies the same discipline it takes to train for a race to his work, and he has a lot of work to do.
MundoFox, a joint venture between Fox International Channels and RCN Television Group, launched in 2012 but has struggled to find its place among more established brands Univision and Telemundo.
Morales joined the network in January, less than a month after the resignation of his predecessor Emiliano Saccone. “When I came here, I had no surprises,” he says. “Fox was very good at sharing with me where they were and I had done my homework.”
Hernan Lopez, president and CEO, Fox International Channels, hadn’t met Morales until earlier this year.
“He just [has such] positive and vibrant energy that you cannot help but to really want to be in business with him,” Lopez says of Morales.
Lopez’ initial reaction to the exec was affirmed after he introduced Morales as president.
“The day that I sent out the email to our stations I got such a universally positive reaction from everybody that I knew we had made the right hire.”
Morales emigrated to the U.S. from Cuba when he was 14.
Three days after his arrival he started working at a hotel in Miami Beach so he could support his mother, Josefa, and sister, Mirma, who both came over with him, and he hasn’t stopped since.
He got his start at the ad agency SFM Media before transitioning to broadcast with an executive position at Katz Television Group. Morales also had stints at Argyle and Hearst and spent six years atop the Telemundo Station Group.
Through all his experience, he’s carried that same work ethic and sense of family he’s always had. “I really balance my life well between family, work and running and training.”
A “typical” day for Morales starts around 4 a.m. when he gets up to weight train and run. By 9 a.m. he has already responded to emails and phone calls and is ready for the first meeting.
“I think it’s a lot of fun to be here where we’re establishing our own habits,” he says of work at MundoFox.
In April, Morales held a town hall meeting for his employees, where he gave a progress report on his first 60 days at the company and spoke about his plans for the next few months. Lopez attended the event, describing the energy in the room as something that “I had not seen before.”
“He’s somebody who’s always looking to give solutions to his clients and to the team and to his board members, to all of his stakeholders,” says Lopez. “He’s somebody that will not take no for an answer. He’s very persistent and he [inspires] the same reaction from everybody that engages with him.”
Looking For a Win
Morales’ long-term goal is to “make sure MundoFox is a household word in the United States.”
The network targets the 18-49 demo and currently reaches 29 million homes in 24 countries. Morales and his team hope to increase those numbers. To get there, MundoFox needs to distinguish itself. “I think we can say that we have learned from our competitors and that’s going to set us apart,” he says.
Morales hinted that the FIC shingle is developing shorter-run series, challenging the traditional telenovela structure, which per season can last for 120 episodes or more and air five or six days a week.
He also eventually sees sports programming coming to MundoFox. More details will come during the network’s May 14 upfront. Morales sees the network’s strategy evolving step by step.
“I feel that our plan is progressing very, very nicely and it’s just like a marathon,” he says. “You gotta go each mile at a time.”