Paley Dialogues: Breakfast

Robert Rodriguez + Scott Sassa, El Rey Network

Feb 24, 2014
8:00 – 9:00 AM
New York

El Rey Network is a new 24-hour English-language television and digital network founded by maverick filmmaker Robert Rodriguez with a focus on millennials and Hispanics. Rodriguez is joined by seasoned media executive Scott Sassa in this unique television venture to "awaken the renegade in everyone." They joined the Media Council in New York on Monday, February 24. See photos and video from the conversation below.

Robert Rodriguez, Founder and Chairman, El Rey Network

Robert Rodriguez is a film director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer, editor, and musician. He is also the founder and chairman of El Rey Network, the new genre-busting English-language cable network that debuted December 2013. While a student at the University of Texas at Austin in 1991, Rodriguez wrote the script to his first feature film while sequestered at a drug research facility as a paid subject in a clinical experiment. That paycheck covered the cost of shooting his film. The film, El Mariachi, went on to win the coveted Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, and became the lowest budget movie ever released by a major studio. Rodriguez wrote about these experiences in Rebel Without a Crew, a perennial guide for the independent filmmaker.

Rodriguez went on to write, produce, direct and edit a series of successful films including Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn, The Faculty, the Spy Kids franchise, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Frank Miller’s Sin City, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3D, Grindhouse, and Machete. In 2000, Rodriguez founded Troublemaker Studios, an Austin, Texas-based production facility of which he is coowner and president. In 2010, he launched Quick Draw Productions a development, production and financing company which gives Rodriguez “green light” capabilities to develop and produce his own media projects across film, television, gaming and interactive platforms while closely controlling the creative process. Rodriguez is currently completing Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For. He resides in Austin, Texas.

Scott M. Sassa, Vice Chair, El Rey Network
Scott M. Sassa is currently vice chair of El Rey Network. From 2008 to 2013, Sassa was president of Hearst Entertainment & Syndication, the operating group responsible for Hearst’s interests in cable television networks, including ESPN, Lifetime, A&E and History; television production and distribution; newspaper syndication; and merchandise licensing. Sassa also oversaw the venture-investing group, which has made investments in Netscape,, Pandora, and other Internet companies. Sassa is a media industry innovator with broad digital, broadcast, and print backgrounds. From 1988 to 1996 he was at Turner Broadcasting System, finishing his tenure there as president of Turner Entertainment Group and a member of the Turner board of directors and the TBS Executive Committee. Sassa is widely credited with building Turner’s entertainment cable channels into industry leaders; he launched seven networks over a seven”year period, including three of the top five-rated basic cable networks. In 1988, he was named executive vice president of Turner Network Television, and was instrumental in the network’s launch, the largest at that time. From 1992 to 1996, he was responsible for all operations and programming for TBS Superstation, Turner Network Television, Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies, and Turner’s international entertainment networks in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

From 1997 to 2004, Sassa was an executive at NBC where, as president of NBC West Coast from 1999 to 2002, he oversaw all of NBC’s entertainment”related businesses, and reported to NBC Chairman and CEO Bob Wright. Sassa made the transition to that position after serving as president of NBC Entertainment. During that time, he oversaw the development and production of NBC’s new primetime series, including such shows as The West Wing, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Scrubs. Before joining NBC, Sassa had served as president and COO of Andrews Group, a unit of MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings, and as CEO of Marvel Entertainment. Prior to joining Hearst, Sassa was a CEO”in”residence at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers from 2005 to 2006. Previous to that, he served as president and CEO of Friendster, a top”50 Internet site that pioneered social networking.

Moderated by Tanzina Vega, The New York Times
Tanzina Vega is a staff reporter for The New York Times, a position she has held since August 2010. Previously, she was a Web producer for The Times, from 2008 to 2010. She joined the paper in 2006 as a news clerk and a stringer. Before joining The Times, Vega was a freelancer at Reuters Television and interned with WNYC Radio. She was the editorial research manager at CMP Media and worked as a language consultant and ESL teacher in Barcelona and South Korea. She began her career at CMP Media as a research assistant. Vega has won various awards for her multimedia work, including being part of the Emmy-winning team that produced "One in 8 Million." NPR’s Code Switch included Vega in their “Journalists — Of Color! — To Watch In 2014” list. She has also won multiple awards from the National Press Photographers Association. Born in New York City, Vega received her bachelor of arts in Sociology from the State University of New York at Stonybrook. She earned her Masters in Multimedia Journalism from City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism.

This event is exclusive to Media Council members and other invited guests. To find out if you're eligible to join the Media Council, contact Stephanie Kousoulas at 212-621-6732 or

Information about upcoming Media Council events, or learn more about past Media Council events.

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