The U.S. will become “a primary place for distribution of content, not a secondary place” for Mexican media giant Grupo Televisa following last month’s agreement with Univision to blend their production operations, Univision CEO Randy Falco told his investors this morning.
The agreement expanded the responsibilities for Univision’s Isaac Lee, making him Chief Content Officer of both Univision and Televisa.
Falco says he’s optimistic about the change based in part on the results for Univision’s telenovella Vino El Amor — which is filmed in the U.S. and includes some English dialogue. It’s “one of our strongest performing novellas in the last 12 months.”
As part of the deal with Televisa, the FCC said it could increase its equity stake in Univision to 49% from 25% — the current ceiling for overseas ownership of a TV station owner. There was one caveat: Televisa can control only as much as 40% of the shareholder votes.
The arrangement “allows for even greater alignment of the two companies in driving our growth,” CFO Francisco Lopez-Balboa says.
The Spanish language broadcaster had little to say about its contract dispute with Charter Communications, except to note that it will be argued at New York State Supreme Court on February 28. Univision wants the cable company to pay the carriage rates it negotiated; Charter wants to use the lower rates paid by Time Warner Cable, which it acquired in May.
Meanwhile, Univision says it expects to see $376 million from the airwaves it offered in the FCC’s spectrum auction to wireless broadband providers. Most of that will be used to reduce its $8.3 billion in debt.
Univision might want to buy TV stations, though, if the FCC increases the cap on the size of the U.S. audience a single owner can reach.
“We think the television station business is a good one — it’s very, very important to us for retransmission,” Falco says. If “we see something that we think is valuable for us going forward, we’ll certainly be in the market for that.”
Earlier Univision reported that it generated $108.0 million in net income in Q4, up from $8.8 million in the 2015 period which also included a $138.2 million impairment charge. Revenues came in at $846.5 million, up 15.0%.
Ad revenue increased about 8%, helped by political spending. Non advertising revenue including retransmission consent fees was up 31%.