By Adam R Jacobson
RBR + TVBR
MIAMI BEACH, FLA. — Univision Communications is no longer the only U.S.-based broadcaster to have received FCC approval to go beyond the current 25% foreign ownership mandate.
In a declaratory ruling made yesterday by the Commission’s Media Bureau, Hemisphere Media Group‘s unopposed petition to allow 49.99% foreign equity and voter interests has been granted.
The decision comes after Hemisphere in July 2016 asked the FCC for approval of its request. Public input on the petition was due by Aug. 29; there was no counter-argument against the company’s request.
Hemisphere is a publicly traded media company focused on Spanish-language television consumers in the U.S. and Latin America and is on Nasdaq as “HMTV.” It operates Spanish-language movie network Cinelatino; longtime Puerto Rico broadcast TV player WAPA-4 in San Juan; WAPA2 Deportes, a sports television network in Puerto Rico; stateside pay-TV network WAPA America; and Pasiones, a cable television network that offers telenovelas and serialized dramas. Hemisphere also operates pay-TV news and entertainment networks Centroamerica TV and Television Dominicana.
Hemisphere sought to boost its foreign ownership because its estimated current foreign ownership is already close to the 25% statutory benchmark and because it is a publicly traded company, which does business internationally and attracts foreign investment. Specifically, Hemisphere claims that it needs additional foreign capital to compete against larger, better funded rival foreign language programmers … such as NBCUniversal’s Telemundo.
Additionally, the company says its future growth strategy includes potential further expansion into Latin America. As consideration for acquisition of Latin American assets may include cash and/or HMTV shares, the failure to increase the amount of allowable foreign ownership would limit Hemisphere in its ability to acquire assets owned by foreign partners.
In an exclusive interview with RBR + TVBR at NATPE 2017, Hemisphere President/CEO Alan Sokol says the FCC’s approval of its request to boost foreign ownership “just gives us more opportunity, going forward.” He notes that Hemisphere owns just one broadcast TV station, in Puerto Rico, and that the Media Bureau ruling “is very logical, as it gives us the flexibility needed to grow.”
Nothing is planned at the moment for Hemisphere. But, Sokol says that he and his partners are looking at strategic interest opportunities for the future.
At the Closing Bell on Wall Street Wednesday (1/18), HMTV shares were down 5 cents, to $11.50.
The Hemisphere decision comes after the FCC on Jan. 3 gave Univision Communications and Mexican media goliath Grupo Televisa a huge New Year’s gift by agreeing that the public interest would be served by permitting foreign ownership of Univision beyond the federally mandated limit of 25%.
RBR + TVBR