September 24, 2020

Advertising: Univision Reset Sights After Ratings Win Over NBC

Univision was emboldened by February sweeps numbers showing that it beat NBC, coming in fourth place with adults in the 18- to 49-year old demographic, while NBC finished fifth. As a result, network executives spent less time focusing on their Spanish-language competitors at the presentation and more time taking direct aim at their competitors on network and cable television.

“By the end of the week you’re going to have a tough time pairing which shows go with which networks,” said Steve Mandala, the executive vice president for advertising and sales at Univision, commenting on the crush of offerings during upfronts week, the New York event when cable channels and network television present next season’s shows to advertisers. “They all seem to be asking for more in the face of declining audiences.” Mr. Mandala stressed Univision’s young “DVR-proof” viewers who watch a majority of the network’s programming live.

The highlight of the presentation, held at the New Amsterdam Theater, was the announcement that Univision would team up with the El Rey Network cable channel, created by the filmmaker Robert Rodriguez and FactoryMade Ventures, a media development and consulting firm.

El Rey was born out of a series of conditions that Comcast had to meet before completing its deal to take control of NBCUniversal. The conditions, mandated by the Federal Communications Commission in 2011, required Comcast to promise to carry several channels owned by minorities to win approval for the deal. Univision will be handling advertising sales and other day-to-day operations for El Rey.

The partnership, which is aimed at second- and third-generation Latinos, allows Univision to further expand its footprint among Hispanics in the United States with English as their dominant language. It is the most significant expansion into that space since the creation of Fusion, a joint venture between ABC News and Univision, announced last year. Though a full slate of programming for Fusion is expected later this year, there was only a passing mention of the channel at the upfront.

Mr. Rodriguez, with Randy Falco, the chief executive of Univision Communications, said in an interview before their presentation to advertisers that his vision for El Rey was to create “cutting-edge, high-quality, expensive programming for young adults, competing with all the English-language networks.” The first show announced will be a serialized version of Mr. Rodriguez’s 1996 film “From Dusk Till Dawn.” El Rey is expected to have its debut in December and be distributed by Comcast.

“It’s something that we think is important to the future,” Mr. Falco said. “Our main aim is to service all Latinos in this country. That includes English-dominant.”

On the Spanish-language side, however, Univision did not stray from its roots, presenting a predictable slate of steamy telenovelas, sports and other event programming.

Cesar Conde, the president of Univision Networks, presented a lineup that included “La Tempestad,” (“The Storm”), a Televisa production featuring the former Miss Universe Ximena Navarrete and the actor William Levy, who were both at the presentation. Other shows included “La Viuda Negra” (“The Black Widow”), based on the life of Griselda Blanco, known as the Cocaine Godmother, a prominent figure in the drug trade of the 1970s and ’80s. “Gossip Girl Acapulco” and “Metastasis” are both Spanish-language versions of the popular English-language shows “Gossip Girl” and “Breaking Bad” that will be shown on UniMás, the Univision network aimed at a younger Latinos.

Executives at a Univision competitor, Telemundo Media, a division of NBCUniversal, were ramping up for their upfront presentation on Tuesday evening. In a preview for the media last week, network executives made a series of programming announcements including the debut of a multiplatform media studio called Fluency, which the network would use to develop bilingual programming for Hispanics.

Telemundo also announced a partnership with Ryan Seacrest Productions for a variety show where two musicians will compete before a panel of judges and a second season of the children’s version of the popular NBC show “The Voice” called “La Voz Kids.” Executives also announced five prime-time telenovelas with titles like “Dama y Obrero” (“The Lady and the Worker”), “Camelia la Tejana” (“Camelia the Texan”) and “Reina de Corazones” (“Queen of Hearts”).

“We are healthy, we are growing and we have a great business that’s really thriving,” said Emilio Romano, the president of Telemundo Media. “The fact that we are able to produce the content for the U.S. gives us a unique advantage.”

Mun2, Telemundo’s sister station, which is focused on a younger, bilingual and bicultural Hispanic audience, made its presentation to advertisers last month. It included 200 hours of programming for the 2013 and 2014 seasons that focused mainly on celebrity-infused reality shows.

Another Hispanic media company taking an aggressive stance during its upfront presentation this week was Discovery U.S. Hispanic, a division of Discovery Communications that operates two cable channels for Spanish-speaking viewers, Discovery en Español and Discovery Familia.

On Tuesday afternoon, Ivan Bargueiras, general manager for Discovery U.S. Hispanic’s networks, described how ratings for his channels were “steadily growing,” with ratings for Discovery en Español up 18 percent last year compared with 2011.

Discovery en Español will add programming aimed at car lovers, including series like “El duo Mecanico,” and will increase soccer on its schedule. Discovery Familia will add series that include “Limpieza Obsesiva” (“Obsessive Cleaners”).

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