Business Monday

Gateway City: For A&E Latin America veteran, growth amid change

For Eddy Ruiz, president and general manager for A&E Network’s Latin America operations, South Florida would be a more attractive place for multinationals “if we could get over the perception that Miami equals South Beach.”

A 30-year Miami resident, Ruiz has nothing against Miami Beach or sun and fun. But as the top executive for one of the more than 1,250 multinationals in WorldCity’s Who’s Here directory, he wants Miami to get its due as the business capital of Latin America and the Caribbean.

After all, South Florida is home to a wide range of multinationals, including the Latin America operations of Discovery, HBO, Fox, Turner, ESPN, MTV and more. And that’s just in his industry.

Many of the largest multinationals in banking, legal, logistics, consumer brands, aviation, maritime, consulting, technology and more all ply their trade in Latin America from South Florida — with the greatest concentration in Coral Gables, where A&E has its offices, downtown/Brickell, the Blue Lagoon area south of Miami International Airport and fast-growing Doral. There are also growing pockets in Fort Lauderdale and southwestern Broward, as well as a smattering in Boca Raton and Palm Beach County.

A&E, which operates in Latin America in a venture with Ole Communications, is well known not only for A&E but also History Channel, Lifetime and, for those who just can’t get enough of yesterday, the new H2. A&E, which once stood for the Arts & Entertainment Network, is itself a joint venture between the Hearst Corp., and Disney-ABC Television Group. Handling A&E’s distribution in the region is HBO LG, its Latin America group.

Ruiz has 30 employees in the Latin America headquarters, with about 160 working in Latin America and reporting to the South Florida office. The employees are in the capitals of the larger markets: Caracas, Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires.

Ruiz has been president and general manager of A&E Ole for eight years. In the three decades before, he has worked in local TV, local radio, Spanish-language TV and, finally, international programming.

He got his start in the industry at the former WDSU, Channel 6, in sales before moving on to the radio station WLYF-101.5 Life FM. From there, Ruiz did a stint at WCSV Channel 51, Telemundo, where he was the local sales manager. He was there at the beginning for GEMS International in the 1990s as the vice president of affiliate distribution before moving on to become president of the Weather Channel internationally and president of HBO LAS, its Latin America advertising sales arm.

Like so many industries, his is changing rapidly. No wonder, then, that he says he starts every day the same way. “First thing is take my two Prevacids with a large glass of water,” he jokes. “Did anybody mention stress?’’

The three biggest changes? “Technology, technology and more technology,’’ he said. “The way you consume your content, over what device and at what particular time, is our biggest game-changer.

“We will continue to focus on ‘UCC’ — user-centric company, how to delight our customers,” he said.

An additional challenge is that, as is the case with most multinationals operating in Latin America, “Our market is not one market but rather 22 individual markets that make up our territory with two primary languages, Portuguese and Spanish – and many variation of the Spanish language.”

That means he is acquainted with long flights and hotels, traveling about 50 percent of the time and averaging about 200,000 frequent flier miles per year, he said.

Even with the change, and the stress it produces, A&E is growing rapidly in Latin America as an expanding middle class has greater access not only to traditional television and cable programming but smart phones with internet access.

“Overall regional growth,” he said, “is projected at over 25 percent.” He cannot divulge revenues, he said.

In the end, he likes the life offered in Coral Gables, where A&E has its offices. “There is no place like the Gables to have an office,” he said. “You have everything within walking distance.”

To download a free copy of WorldCity’s Who’s Here directory, visit www.worldcityweb.com/ns/.

A&E Network’s Latin America operations

Address: 2525 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Suite 250

Web address: www.canalaetv.com

Total number of employees in its Coral Gables headquarters: 60

Total number in its Caracas, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Mexico city offices: 160

Viewers by top markets*

• Mexico: 35 percent

• Argentina: 15 percent

• Colombia: 10 percent

• Brazil: 30 percent

• Venezuela: 5 percent

• Chile: 5 percent

(*These are the markets IBOPE measures for A&E)

Most popular programs by network:

History:

• “Pawn Stars” ( “El Precio de la Historia”)

• “American Pickers” (“Casadores de Tesoros”)

• “American Restoration” (“Los Restauradores”)

A&E:

• “Storage Wars” (“Quien da mas?”)

• “Duck Dynasty”

• “NCIS LA”

• “Terapia de Shock”

Lifetime:

• “Dance Moms”

• “Abbys Ultimate Competition”

• “Drop Dead Divas”

• “Devious Maids”

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