MIAMI BEACH, FLA — As television industry executives and programming buyers and sellers from across the globe gathered Tuesday morning for the first of two full days of sessions at NATPE 2017, attendees promoted Mexico’s TV Azteca across the Eden Rock and Fontainebleau hotels, as they are a key sponsor and their logo appears on all name badges and conference lanyards.
But the big Spanish-language network that grabbed the headlines yesterday morning was Univision, and what it’s just done with Televisa.
In a statement, Univision, with its headquarters some 40 minutes to the west in bustling Doral, revealed that it has “strengthened and expanded” its relationship with Mexico’s Grupo Televisa by “unifying both of their content development and production efforts.”
The pact is intriguing and comes after Univision received a New Year’s win from the FCC in the form of approval of a waiver allowing the media company to have foreign investors own up to 49% of Univision’s equity and 49% of its voting interests — including up to 40% of its equity and voting interest to be held by Televisa and its affiliates.
This is largely seen as the final step in Univision’s long-awaited IPO, which company executives hoped to have set by the end of 2016.
The alliance also comes amid sharply diminished Nielsen ratings for the main Univision network against its longtime Spanish-language television rival, NBCUniversal’s Telemundo. UniMás has held strong, however, against its competitors in the second-run and niche space, and Univision Deportes Network has regularly placed among the top Spanish-language sports networks on U.S. pay-TV.
Elaborating on the arrangement, Univision said that both it and Telemundo will benefit “from a single, integrated focus on the Hispanic audience in the U.S. and the domestic Mexican audience, as well as from potential cost synergies from aligned content initiatives.”
This is a major shift and also points to share erosion in Mexico at Televisa, a giant of giants on the global space that has come under intense pressure from new video delivery systems and TV Azteca.
Univision and Televisa will keep separate news operations, while all other operations will remain independent. The current terms and conditions of the existing programming license agreement between Univision and Televisa remain unchanged.
However, the programming pact is historic, for it signals that — for the first time — U.S. Hispanic audience may dictate what is produced and shown in Latin America. The reverse has long been true and is part of the strategy for Viacom‘s rebound: Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN) is in production on I Am Frankie at its sprawling production complex on the edge of Miami’s Overtown neighborhood. It’s the first domestic production for Nickelodeon and based on the highly successful Yo Soy Franky, a Colombian production airing on Nick’s Latin American feeds.
LEE TO LEAD NEW PARTNERSHIP
Taking the torch as leader of this initiative is Univision Chief News, Entertainment & Digital Officer and Fusion CEO Isaac Lee. He now holds the role of Chief Content Officer of both Univision and Televisa, effective immediately. “His new role unifies the leadership and strategic direction of the production of content for consumers in the United States and Mexico,” Univision said.
It continued, “This announcement reflects both companies’ continued commitment to serve the growing U.S. Latino community, while enabling them to compete more effectively in their respective markets in an environment where the viewing habits of consumers are evolving rapidly and where competition is increasing, both from new content offerings and from traditional and emerging platforms.”
In his respective role at each company, Lee will continue to report to Univision President/CEO Randy Falco. But, he will also now report to Televisa President Emilio Azcárraga Jean.
Falco said, “I look at Isaac Lee as the ideal leader of our joint content efforts. With his creative mind and keen understanding of the rapidly changing tastes of young audiences, Univision and Televisa are best positioned to continue to evolve our aligned content offerings.”
Azcárraga added, “By unifying our production of content for distribution on multiple platforms in Mexico and the United States, we will take advantage of the unique opportunity that Televisa and Univision have to compete more effectively in an increasingly complex and fragmented industry. I welcome Isaac, whom I trust will maximize the value and success of our content, which we have been producing for over 60 years.”
Lee joined Univision in December 2010 as President of News, following journalism-focused roles such as Editor-in-Chief of PODER Magazine. He is Colombian, and began his career as Editor of Semana magazine, which is similar to TIME or Newsweek.
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