Conversation With Johnathan Gwyn, CEO of New Hispanic TV Network

"Our goal at MICASA is to build a long-term connection with our bilingual, bicultural Hispanic audience"

By Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez, Herald de Paris
Published on LatinoLA: June 2, 2013

Conversation With Johnathan Gwyn, CEO of New Hispanic TV Network

Originally published at Herald de Paris. Republished by permission.

Johnathan Gwyn is Chairman of the Board CEO of MCB Network Corp. In 2010 he started a Latino TV network in Houston, Texas, from which he divested his interest in August, 2011. In 2012, he produced over 100 TV productions as an independent producer.

MCBN is a full service Latino Broadcasting Network in English, with a primary target audience of first and second generation Latinos. MICASA Network, a subsidiary of MCBN, is a US Hispanic Broadcast station which, through its Galaxy 23 Satellite license, can reach the entire North America continent and into Mexico.

Gwyn says, "Our goal at MICASA is to build a long-term connection with our bilingual, bicultural Hispanic audience by providing content they crave in a unique way. We create relevance through our deep understanding of the demands of the modern Latino family. An example of MCBN/MICASA achieving this goal is the Telly-award winning show "Dia Delivery."

In addition, MCBN has developed eight original series with subjects including Latin hip hop music, news in the fast lane, comedy, short Film festival, family comedy, office gossip, and a police story. MCBN is producing approximately eight half-hour shows per week in their Houston, Texas studio.

To complement and anchor their original shows, MCBN is also licensing proven content, including programs such as "Que Pasa, USA?" the first bi-lingual comedy in the United States, produced for PBS. Hundreds of hours of movies have been added to their licensed content library. MCBN is in position to broadcast as MICASA Network with over one year's content for 24/7 programming

Award winning Writer, Director, and Producer Dennis Leoni recently came on board with Mi Casa, this is what he had to say about Gwyn and Mi Casa.

"Johnathan is a guy who started as an actor, working his way into helping to build a local station in Houston, and is now trying to go to a national level. It's a humble deal with only a couple of million behind him, unlike Robert Rodriguez who has hundreds of millions. But the intent for the MICASA Network is purer than all the other Latino-flavored networks, including El Rey and NuvoTV".

"While I want the network to be more diversified, with Resurrection Blvd. and Los Americans as our flagship series, and even shows like Que Pasa and Loco Comedy Jam, we'll be broadcasting shows truly for and about Latinos. That's what I want and have always wanted to accomplish. It will also, in success, give me the opportunity to develop other series that reflect the U.S. population, and shows with redeeming social value, not just some reality crap. We will have, at least in the beginning, some shows that are inexpensive and not the greatest quality. But down the road, we hope to have the chance to make some amazing shows that no one else will make. Thinking about the angle for a national story, maybe it's David against Goliath; the little engine that could; the little network that might come out of nowhere to out program the big boys".

Herald De Paris Deputy Managing Editor Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez had an opportunity to chat with Jonathan another major up and comer on the national entertainment scene.

AC: Tell us about growing up, type of Family, I understand that who have a degree in environmental engineering? What was college like for you?

JG: As a small child, I was raised by a very loving Latina single mother who gave me her unconditional love. It was a life filled with love but also challenges and struggles, including being low income and enrolling in a different school every few months as we moved frequently. I met my father when I was a teenager. He had started a family business and asked me to live with him and work for him. So, I moved to be with Dad in the Clear Lake area.

This was a dramatic change for me. It was like moving to Beverly Hills and I had to learn to fit in at a school that had very few minority students at the time. Being raised in two cultures and having to master both for survival and passion. After graduating high school, I took numerous certificate courses for hazardous material emergency operations at the Texas A and M Extension School of Engineering to prepare for working in the family business of hazardous materials cleanup.

AC: Tell us about the Family business? What was your role? Good and bad?

JG: I remember "officially" joining the family business was when I was 14 years old. My father woke me up at 3am to help him on an emergency job. I ended up working next to all the laborers for almost 24 hours straight -- wearing a respirator and shoveling toxic waste into a large vacuum truck. My father handed me a shovel and said, "You can have anything in life as long as you work hard for it." I have always remembered him saying that to me. Hazardous waste management was a very lucrative business but had its challenges. It was great to eventually help manage the business. I helped in expanding the business by managing multi-million dollar clean ups and working with the Army Corps of Engineers on many large scale projects.

AC: Tell about your work and successes with Viva Vision? How were you able to reach 200 million viewers worldwide?

JG: landed the job at Viva Vision when I approached the studio heads moderating the mobile TV panel at the NATPE conference in 2005. I asked some questions and things grew from that. I worked with some of the biggest names in branding - like the infamous Rowland Hanson who assisted Bill Gates in marketing Microsoft. Rowland was a great mentor and leader and taught me a lot during the time I worked with him. It was my dream job. I was in charge of aggregating and creating content for 30 different cell phone channels. I created a demo for Viva Vision within the first six months and we used it at conferences to promote Viva Vision. We were soon doing deals with every major cell phone carrier in the world. We were the only mobile content provider offering Hispanic-American content.

AC: Why did you leave the business and decide to go into acting? What was the first acting job? How many commercials? Understand you had initial success then it dried up? Why?

JG: I left the family business because acting and entertainment was something I had always wanted to learn and be part of. Working in the middle of nowhere shoveling sludge in a tank for 60 days is the toughest job in the world and anyone would want to move out of that career. Someone working for my father had a cousin who was an actor in Houston. I met with him and soon after met with my first talent agent. My first acting job was on a production about a program that rehabilitated juvenile kids who were incarcerated. Next I was in a Budweiser commercial in Spanish. I did around 20 commercials and about 5 independent films. Then acting work dried up for a couple of years. I think that being in Houston, TX with limited auditions and opportunities per year contributed to that.

AC: What are some of the projects you have written and directed?

JG: My first short film was called "Fresh Water," a story about a South Texas ranch in the early 1980's where Mexican slavery was still present. HBO contacted me about producing a project, but I lacked representation and the deal didn't happen. I went on to direct music videos for some Mexican rappers who were signed to Warner Music.

AC: You have had a few Awards and nominations?

JG: The first honor I received was for a music video I did for a rapper named Juan Gotti. The Warner Music Company submitted it into the Grammys and recognized me as an up and coming director. The first Telly Award I received was for a Coca-Cola spec commercial we put together while waiting for rappers to arrive to the set. My second Telly Award was a "People's Choice" for "Dia Delivery," a news show I created and produced.

The most recent honor was an Imagen Award for a show I produced called "Inside Mi Casa." This is a magazine-style show that highlighted the life of Lupe Casares, who was next to Cesar Chavez as a young activist.

AC: Are the decks stacked against American born second generation Latinos?

JG: I believe that this is the greatest time ever for Latinos. We are on the verge of becoming leaders in this great country and are being recognized more every day. More young Latinos are getting college degrees, setting goals and becoming outstanding Americans.

AC: Why did you decide on starting your own TV Network, I'm told that you would like to become a Latino BET? Is this possible what is your vision for Mi Casa?

JG: My idea for this network began when I learned my great grandfather, Humberto Silex, who is of Nicaraguan decent, was a huge activist. He served in WW1, worked in smelter mines in El Paso, and started the first Mexican workers Union because of poor conditions. He was initially incarcerated but later was released and recognized by the president of the U.S. for his achievements.

I started the Mi Casa Network to highlight heroes like him for the second generation Latinos who lack mainstream identity at the moment. When I call it a BET for Latinos, people kind of understand my goal. We live in America. We are born here, love it here and need to be recognized for all our heroism and contributions to this great country.

There is a wealth of talent that needs exposure in mainstream media from musical artists and genres to TV sitcom writers, directors, and actors. I think non-Hispanic Americans and the world alike want to know who these Latinos are and what they are like. I think that Mi Casa is very much something all cultures will want to watch.

AC: Is being based in Houston Texas a help or hindrance?

JG: I think being in Texas is great. There is a lot of Latino talent here and there is no need to move to L.A. The Houston location is much easier on budgets, and Houston's entertainment economy could really benefit from the energy and uplift that Mi Casa will create.

AC: Which media platforms are you working on and are there any plans to make your media and your knowledge of telecommunications interactive?

JG: We are working on interactive live TV, social TV, and many other innovative ways to communicate to our audience and also allow advertisers to reach our loyal audience.

AC: How do you define TV Network within the scope of what you are doing, is what is broadcast over the air redundant to what is streamed on-line?

JG: I think you have to be prepared to be available on all platforms, TV, Internet and mobile. There are no boundaries to the way people consume their media. One day you could be in a hurry and catch a show on a tablet while the next night you could be watching at home on your flat screen TV.

AC: I understand that 70% of what you do is in English, do you think there is a real future in Bilingual media, or should it be one or the other?

JG: I would say that we are 90 percent in English. This reflects the way that Latino Americans communicate. It is time for the world to recognize us as Americans who speak English at home and even to our grandparents.

AC: In what you do, is Biculturalism more important than Bilingualism when it comes to news, and entertainment?

JG: I believe that topics that matter to Hispanic Americans are not discussed enough and if they are talking about them it's usually in Spanish which most of the second gen kids don't really care for.

AC: What types of programming do you feature, what has been the response so far? How do you plan to monetize your efforts?

JG: Well we are featuring shows that matter to our youth; music is a key area to connect with the kids. Political issues are another way we can most definitely connect with the younger Latino audience. Our goal is to showcase heroic images of Latino Americans. Monetization efforts are being implanted into our phone apps and our broadcast distribution reach. We know our channel will be watched not only by America but by Latino America as well.

AC: What kind of talent are you attracting? Are you going after a younger demo? Who is your target demo and why? What do the advertisers want?

JG: I think we are a family-oriented channel, and our target audience is 18-49. We have a broad spectrum of programming that unites the audience as a family and gives them a sense of pride that somebody really cares about their heritage and culture. Advertisers are looking for this trillion dollar market.

AC: Tell us about bringing award winning Producer Dennis Leoni on board; what does he bring to the table?

JG: Dennis is a personal hero of mine for the barriers he has and continues to break for American Latinos in mainstream media. Dennis brings a wealth of knowledge and experience, as well as connections to any major Latino star. It is a tight-knit world in entertainment and even tighter world for Latinos in film and TV. Dennis will help move Mi Casa into the forefront of that community.

AC: You said that for 7-10 years you hung out with old guys who proved to be mentors, what did your mentor teach you.

JG: My mentors taught me first of all to be humble and to always be persistent. They taught me the importance of good business ethics. Because of their examples and others I have been fortunate in working with, every day I strive to be a better human being than I was yesterday.

AC: You are said to "Know your numbers" How important is it to understand numbers in growing a media network? Do people fail because they lack mentors?

JG: I think you should know and be open to learning at all times. There is no way one person can know it all. You could be your worst enemy if you are not open to learning from others around you or think that you know everything. I am not sure if people fail because of lack of business mentors. Some people have super parents and excellent schooling and support; that can be enough for some.

AC: There are many very talented website producers in LA, Are you looking for existing programming that can be rebroadcast on your medium?

JG: We are eager to meet as many talented producers as possible. Our goal is to showcase up and coming producers with their web series by providing a gateway into broadcast television.

AC: I understand that you may have a satellite deal in the works can you talk a little about that?

JG: Our satellite deal is set, and we will be making an announcement about it in the near future. Our signal will reach the entire continent of North America all the way down to South America.

AC: Is your goal to go global? If so how do you think people in other countries will benefit from what you can offer?

JG: I believe our content will flow nicely in Latin American countries and also in China. Latin American kids growing up in Mexico, Brazil, and other countries are eager to speak English. Where better to learn it than the Mi Casa Network?

AC: In ten years where do you want to be personally and where do you think the network will be?

JG: In ten years I would like to be mentoring others to fulfill their dreams and goals and possibly directing a few feature films.

AC: How can people know about you and what you are doing?

People can follow us on Twitter and catch up on all that is happening at the @mcbntv

About Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez, Herald de Paris:
Edited By, Susan Aceves
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