Univision Communications on Thursday reported higher fourth-quarter earnings and said that it anticipates receiving approximately $376 million in proceeds from the FCC spectrum auction this year.
The company said it would use the proceeds to pay down debt.
On the Spanish-language media giant's earnings call, CEO Randy Falco discussed the company's changes to its programming strategy after some ratings disappointments last year. He said a January announcement that Isaac Lee will oversee content development across Univision and programming partner and Mexican TV giant Televisa "demonstrates the strength of our relationship with Televisa." And he emphasized: "The United States now will become a primary place for distribution of content, not a secondary" place.
Falco also told analysts that "we have seen some good results from recent programming changes." For example, in the fourth quarter, Univision saw ratings improvements in the 9 p.m. time slot, he said. And in the current first quarter, it is up almost 10 percent in primetime helped by new family-friendly live programming in the 8 p.m. hour, Falco added.
Univision is also continuing to invest in non-Televisa content, such as a previously announced upcoming El Chapo miniseries with Netflix, the exec said.
Univision operates such assets as broadcast networks Univision Network and UniMas, formerly Telefutura, as well as cable channel Galavision and sports network Univision Deportes.
NBCUniversal-owned Telemundo last year achieved some landmark victories to beat Univision in the demographic of 18- to 49-year-olds. But Univision said Thursday that it finished the 2015/2016 broadcast season as the most-watched Spanish-language network overall for the 24th consecutive year and also leads the overall audience season-to-date.
The Spanish-language media giant, which has been planning an IPO, posted a fourth-quarter profit of $108.0 million, compared with a year-ago profit of $8.6 million.
Fourth-quarter adjusted operating income before depreciation and amortization (OIBDA), another profitability metric, rose 16.4 percent to $390.1 million, driven by a 16 percent gain in the company's media networks unit and a 15.4 percent increase in its radio division.
Quarterly revenue rose 15 percent to $846.5 million, or 8.5 percent when excluding for better comparability the political/advocacy advertising and content licensing revenue in both periods. Advertising revenue increased 7.8 percent to more than $541 million. Non-advertising revenue, including carriage fees and content licensing, rose 30.6 percent to $305 million.
Said Falco: "Our fourth quarter marked a strong finish to a very positive year for Univision where we achieved the highest revenue and adjusted OIBDA in the history of our company." He added: "Our investments to strengthen and diversify our content and portfolio of assets have helped us to build upon our position as the No. 1 network for U.S. Hispanics and significantly grow our reach."
Falco also said: "As we look ahead, we are optimistic that our increasingly diverse portfolio of leading media assets will position us to perform well in a rapidly changing media landscape."
On the call, the exec said he expects "a strong upfront" advertising sales season in May, with management emphasizing its team will highlight recent ratings improvements in upfront talks.
Read more: Univision Third-Quarter Earnings Rise