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Tuesday, Mar 5, 2024

Rebrand on Air

Fresh from a reorganization after filing for voluntary bankruptcy more than a year ago, LBI Media Inc. decided to rebrand itself. Thus Estrella Media Inc. was born. Peter Markham, chief executive of the Burbank Spanish-language radio and television broadcaster, told the Business Journal the rebranding, which became official Feb. 3, features a new logo of a four-pointed star meant to show the company as a navigational beacon. “That is a great metaphor for what we want this company to be, what we want to stand for and for the community we serve,” Markham said. Along with the rebrand, the company has launched new shows on its EstrellaTV network. Formerly known as LBI Media Inc., named for the Liberman family who started and owned the company since 1987, Estrella Media is one of the largest producers of Spanish-language television programming in the U.S. Lenard Liberman had been the chief executive until Markham stepped in. The EstrellaTV network is distributed through owned and operated TV stations, TV network affiliates and related digital media properties. It is also one of the most prolific developers and producers of Spanish-language radio talent and programming. “We program with a lighter format,” Markham said. “It is general entertainment, reality and games shows that lets people relax and laugh and enjoy.” The company employs more than 500 people in the San Fernando Valley. Markham became chief executive on Oct. 15 after Estrella emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. His specialty in the media space is in turning around privately held companies. “My background is in revitalizing and transforming media companies that are going through some transition in conjunction with a financial partner,” Markham said. In the case of Estrella, the financial partner is HPS Investment Partners, a New York investment firm with $61 billion of assets under management as of January 2020. HPS received 100 percent of new equity interests in the company. Lindsey Carnett, chief executive of Marketing Maven Public Relations Inc., in Camarillo, said that after coming out of the Chapter 11 process and installing a new chief executive, it made sense for Estrella to rebrand itself. “We have worked with companies that have gone through similar processes and rebrands have been a positive experience for them,” Carnett said. She added that the name chosen – Estrella, which means “star” in Spanish – was an improvement over LBI Media, in that it is difficult to know what an acronym like that stands for. “Estrella is a good rebrand rather than choosing another acronym,” Carnett said. Marco Gonzalez, Estrella’s vice president of public relations and corporate affairs, said in an email to the Business Journal that the rebrand process had begun in October, with a bulk of the work taking place between November and January. One challenge that any company performing a rebrand faces is getting its whole team to buy in with a new name, logo and mission statement, Carnett said. “They have to sell it first internally and have everybody on board,” she added. Markham engaged with employees in various ways, Gonzalez wrote in the email. First, he reached out with an email to explain the company’s reorganization and to introduce himself as its new chief executive. A video message was recorded and broadcast to all employees through Workplace, a social media platform owned by Facebook. Thirdly, on the day the company emerged from Chapter 11, Markham went to every office, studio, radio booth, makeup room, wardrobe and control room in Burbank and then went to satellite offices in Houston, Dallas, New York and Miami, Gonzalez said. On Feb. 7, Markham hosted the company’s first-ever townhall meeting to present the new brand and corporate identity to all staff at the Hollywood Way studios in Burbank, he added. “This meeting (was) broadcast live to all satellite offices,” Gonzalez wrote in the email. Native content Markham said that his first job after coming in as chief executive was to change the culture of the company. He wanted to empower the staff and give them the resources needed to be successful in their roles, he added. The cultural change came by building a community-first approach, Markham, said, adding that the Hispanic community in the U.S. has been historically underserved from a content, information and entertainment perspective. “We want very much to be that voice for the community we serve, and we are going to super-serve them,” he added. “It is building a culture around that point and goes back to the new logo and the four-point star being the navigational beacon for the community that informs everything we do when we walk through that door every day.” Estrella Media operates 10 of its own television stations in major markets such as Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Miami as well as 16 radio stations in Southern California and Texas. It produces 2,500 hours of original programming from its studios on Empire Avenue in Burbank “Our coverage is approximately 65 million homes and we are available to 75 percent of U.S. Hispanic households,” Gonzalez wrote in an email. “The EstrellaTV Network is distributed by major cable carriers.” When it comes to programming, Markham does not see it as being counter to what competing Spanish-language broadcasters Univision, owned by Univision Communications Inc., and Telemundo, owned by Comcast Corp., offer. That’s because he sees Estrella offering programming that its market is looking for versus a conscience effort to look at what the competition is doing and offering something different, he said. “It is more of what are the white spaces in the market that our community is yearning for and how do we create content that resonates with them,” Markham added. Estrella’s strategic advantage is that all of its content is produced in the U.S. by Hispanics for the U.S. Hispanic marketplace. “That is a key differentiator,” Markham said. “We are not importing a majority of our content from other countries and re-airing it in the U.S. It’s all original content made in the U.S. with a U.S. Hispanic bent to it.” Streaming future With shows like “Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento,” a talent competition show, the reality program “Rica Famosa Latina,” and game show “Tumba Burros,” it should come as no surprise that Estrella’s viewership skews on the younger side. It is also evenly balanced between males and females – a statistic that advertisers like, Markham said. “They want an audience that they can present their products and services to in an environment that the audience engages with and trusts,” he added. “Above all, they want to be associated with quality content that aligns with their brand, which is very much what we are about.” Debuting the same day as the rebrand was late night talk show “Nos Cayó La Noche” with host Alex Montiel. It’s the type of show Markham wants to make more of as the turnaround ramps up, using fresh talent in addition to Don Cheto, the Mexican character played by actor Juan Razo and the network’s most recognized personality. Don Cheto has both a TV and radio program. Markham also said the company will invest more in sports programming through partnerships with leagues and teams. It already has a partnership with Fox Deportes where its talent based in Miami works with Fox’s talent producing exclusive content for EstrellaTV and its digital properties, Markham said. Streaming is the future for Estrella, as it is with other large entertainment companies, including Walt Disney Co. with its new Disney+ streaming service; Warner Bros. Entertainment, with the launch of HBO Max in May; and NBCUniversal, which will offer streamer Peacock starting in April for Comcast cable subscribers and in July for everyone else. Estrella has distribution agreements with Netflix Inc. in Los Gatos, Disney-owned Hulu in Santa Monica and Roku Inc. in Los Gatos.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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