Los Angeles Times

Merger aims to grow Latinx clout

GoDigital buys John Leguizamo’s NGL Collective in bid for a ‘media powerhouse.’

- By Wendy Lee

Actor John Leguizamo has starred in a variety of movies, including “Romeo + Juliet,” “Collateral Damage,” and even as the iconic plumber Luigi in “Super Mario Bros.” But even he can’t break through Hollywood’s glass ceiling.

“It’s made out of plexiglass and it’s bulletproo­f, and you can’t get past it,” Leguizamo said in an interview.

Over the years, he said, studio executives have rejected his pitches for stories, telling Leguizamo — who is of Colombian descent — that Latino people apparently don’t want to see “feelgood movies,” he said.

“Until we start seeing executives that look like us, like a brown Latino, I find that it’s going to be very difficult for them to give us the appropriat­e space,” he added.

To help remedy the problem, he’s merging his own New York-based digital media company, NGL Collective, with GoDigital Media Group’s mitú, an L.A.-based digital media company that creates stories and videos targeting Latino audiences. Mitú also operates a 14,000square-foot studio in L.A.’s Eastside.

GoDigital’s acquisitio­n of NGL is valued at more than $60 million and will create what the companies describe as the “largest digitalfir­st Latinx media powerhouse” in the U.S. The combined company of mitú and NGL will have more than 90 employees, 92% of which are Latinx.

Leguizamo launched NGL Collective with entreprene­ur and co-founder David Chitel in 2012. The company creates content targeting NGL — new generation Latinx — audiences. It works with influencer­s and

produces unscripted TV programs and documentar­ies, stories on such topics as fashion, parenting and recipes, as well as videos that help promote brands like Amtrak and Lexus.

“David and I have always tried to pioneer Latin content and to create a space for Latin content so Latin people can see themselves reflected in our content and have the opportunit­y to have a medium that includes them when they’re excluded in every other medium,” Leguizamo said. “We want to change things.”

Merging with mitú will give NGL Collective more scale to attract additional advertiser­s and content for the Latinx audience, NGL executives said.*

“This merger will provide really an unmatched opportunit­y for both consumers and advertiser­s alike to benefit from the sum of those parts,” said Chitel, NGL Collective’s chief executive in an interview.

Latinos make up roughly 19% of the U.S. population, representi­ng much of the country’s population growth in the last decade, according to the U.S. Census. They are also big consumers of entertainm­ent, spending 34% of their time streaming video, compared with 25% for white people, according to Nielsen data. That growth is a key reason why companies like NGL are attractive to buyers.

“Latinx media consumptio­n is exploding,” said Jason Peterson, chairman and CEO of GoDigital Media Group in a statement. “This acquisitio­n cements our foothold in the U.S. Latino media space.”

Maribel Lopez, founder and principal analyst of Lopez Research, said the pairing of the companies makes sense, adding that more advertisin­g dollars will allow the business to increase content production and reach a wider audience.

“Anybody that is serious about having a presence in the new media world has to have Latinx content and not just Latinx content, but a broader portfolio of Latinx content,” Lopez said.

Hollywood, however, has remained mostly white and male on screen and in executive positions. Latinos represent just 6.3% of broadcast scripted TV show roles in the 2019-2020 season and just 4.9% of roles in 1,300 popular movies in 2019, according to the 2020 UCLA “Hollywood Diversity Report.”

“It’s hard for old Hollywood and streamers to give up power, to give up that space that they’ve had for so long,” Leguizamo said. “I mean, if we go by the box office — 30% of it — we should be 30% of the stories, 30% of the actors in movies, 30% of the executives in streamers and Hollywood.”

Leguizamo, who won a Tony Award for his solo show “Latin History for Morons,” hopes the deal will create a company that can provide more opportunit­ies for Latinx creators.

He pointed out that Latinx consumers represente­d about 30% of box office ticket sales for “Thor: Love and Thunder,” “and yet we’re virtually invisible in the media, in publishing, in corporatio­ns. It’s crazy,” Leguizamo said.

“It’s almost like a cultural apartheid that we’re living in, with such a predominan­t culture in most of the big cities, and yet, we’re virtually invisible, and yet, and we’re online, we’re alive, and we’re creating content,” Leguizamo said.

“All these young kids are creating things, such great, funny and powerful content and we want to get that out much more and welcome much more content of that sort.”

 ?? Ryan Kahm Mitú Studios ?? A STUDIO at L.A.-based mitú, which has merged with actor John Leguizamo’s New York-based digital media firm, NGL Collective, in a $60-million-plus deal.
Ryan Kahm Mitú Studios A STUDIO at L.A.-based mitú, which has merged with actor John Leguizamo’s New York-based digital media firm, NGL Collective, in a $60-million-plus deal.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States