Aiming for Hispanic Hearts and English Dollars

Univision's new sales chief prepares for multiplatform upfront—and a challenge to the bigger broadcast networks

Why This Matters

Univision At A Glance

FOUNDED: 1962, as Spanish International Network

KEY ASSETS: 12 broadcast and cable networks (including Univision, UniMás and Galavisión), digital platforms (including UVideos and, 69 radio stations and 62 TV stations in U.S. and Puerto Rico

OWNERSHIP: Private equity consortium, led by executive chairman Haim Saban

2012 REVENUE: $2.442 billion

RELATED: Putting a Little English on It

Even as it battles to maintain the love of the Hispanic community the company
dominates, Univision Communications is taking aim at a much bigger
target: the English-language broadcast networks.

Former NBC executive Keith Turner, who joined Univision as president of advertising
sales and marketing last summer, tells B&C he understands the passion that people
have for the brand and the romantic telenovelas it airs in primetime. The newly intensified competition in the Spanish-language TV business, from Comcast’s Telemundo and
Fox’s Mundo Fox, “validates what we’ve been talking about all these years,” Turner says.

But Univision execs look at the network’s February sweeps ratings—which
eclipsed those of struggling NBC—as the start of a major shift, one they have not
been shy about touting. And Turner sees the network, which turned 50 last year,
evolving into a bigger fish in a deeper pool of advertising revenue that now goes
to the English-language broadcasters.

“I think we’ve gotten the share of the Hispanic dollars that’s available. I think
the block of dollars that we want to go after now is
in the English-language segment,” Turner says. Beating
NBC is “a big story,” he adds. “We’ve got to beat
that drum.”

The volume on that drumbeat is rattling some buyers who specialize in Spanishlanguage
media. “It was really kind of surprising the way that they positioned
themselves, because they don’t necessarily always default to the fact that they’re a
Spanish-language network,” says Stephanie Da Costa, media director at Wing, a
$70 million agency owned by WPP with clients including Procter & Gamble, Red
Lobster and Radio Shack. “That’s secondary almost to the fact that they’re able to
compete with English-language networks as far as ratings.”

“They can’t say, ‘We’re just another network.’ They’re not,” Da Costa says.
“They’re a network that has a very specific niche. You’re reaching the Hispanic
market. And if a brand is not interested in reaching Hispanics, they’re never going
to go for you, regardless of what your ratings are.”

Best of Both Worlds?

Da Costa thinks that rather than being concerned
about maintaining its hold on a Spanish-language
market that is growing as the U.S. population evolves, Univision sees itself
with a comfortable lead that gives them the leverage
to explore new horizons. While “that’s a fact, I think
that a smart business person would look beyond that
and that the trend is going in a direction that’s kind
of opposite of that. They’re losing share,” she says.

But Univision CEO Randy Falco, another former
NBC executive, insists the company is paying very
close attention to the Hispanic market.

He says the unique place the Univision brand occupies
in the Hispanic community, plus its growing
array of broadcast, cable and digital assets, makes
it possible to maintain its approximately 73% share
of the Spanish-language market in the face of the
intensified competition.

“If we take care of the community, empower the
community, and show reverence, always reverence,
to the brand, I think we’ll be able to maintain that
position that we have with the Hispanic community,”
Falco says. At the same time, the new platforms
create additional shelf space that ensures that “we
have a Univision-branded piece of content in front
of our audience whenever they choose to consume
that content.”

In addition, Falco says, “we think we’re going to
be very competitive in the overall broadcast arena
regardless of language.” He adds that over time, as the demographics of the country
change and the current level of one in six Americans being Hispanic becomes one
in three by 2040, “I think there’s a very good case that Univision will become one
of the top three networks in the country.”

But even as ratings rise, will advertisers move money now going to the Big Four
broadcast networks to Spanish-language TV? “It’s not going to happen overnight, but
it’s happening,” Falco says. “So you have little tipping points. I think the last election
was a tipping point. It certainly proved to candidates that they have to do business
with Univision, which has become the gateway to the Hispanic audience. So if you
want to get elected, you should be talking to that community through Univision.”

“I think the same can be said for advertisers,” Falco adds. “If they want to talk to
the Hispanic community, the gateway to that community continues to be Univision.
More and more advertisers will see that.”

Last October, Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political
spending, estimated that the Obama and Romney campaigns combined spent
eight times more money on Spanish-language ads than was spent in 2008. Half that
total spending came in three Florida markets—Orlando, Miami and Tampa—all of
which boast Univision stations.

Great Expectations

Univision is starting to prepare for the upfront.
On March 1, Turner had his first meeting about
planning Univision’s May 14 upfront presentation,
where next season’s programming will be announced.
“We are in the process of putting these
pre-upfront meetings together where we go literally
agency by agency to have conversations about what
we’re doing, where we’re going, what they’re doing,
how we can help them,” he says.

It’s too early to make predictions about the upfront,
but Turner says first quarter has been strong,
with Univision writing more scatter business than
ever. Options to get out of first-quarter upfront buys
were at an all-time low, he adds, “so all the indicators
are there.”

Univision will air its last World Cup soccer tournament
in 2014, after which Telemundo’s broadcast
rights kick in. “We’re way ahead of this upfront in
selling World Cup. We’ve already written 10 to 12
deals. We’re in very good shape,” Turner says. After
the World Cup leaves, the company will still be on
solid footing, Turner says, because “we seem to have
every other soccer property.”

Univision’s upfront will also be about more than
the broadcast network. There’s second broadcast network
UniMás, local TV and radio stations, a growing
stable of new and old cable channels, plus digital
and mobile platforms (see “At a Glance,”). Turner
plans to bring all of Univision’s assets to market at
one time to make multiplatform deals. “There are
a lot of assets here,” he says. “I know that advertisers
don’t want to just buy 30-second commercials
anymore; they want a connection and connectivity.
Those are the things that we’re building here.”

Media buyers say they have heard that story from
Univision before and they hope the new team can
deliver. “I think we are finally seeing that come to
fruition a little bit more than we have in other years,”
says Lisa Torres, president of Zenith’s ZO Multicultural
division. “We’re seeing all their properties move
together, not only from a national perspective, but
activating local and digital and social.”

Making Digital Plays Pay

After launching the UVideos platforms and other
digital businesses, Falco says Univision is thinking
about getting involved in the digital upfronts that
take place next month. And with business spanning
multiple screens, “we want to make sure that
Nielsen is there with us measuring,” he says. Univision,
whose content is licensed to appear on more
than 200 million devices (including 30 million Xboxes) and Nielsen, which has
been criticized for inadequate Hispanic samples, are engaged in a cross-platform
measurement test right now. Falco hopes to have results in time for the upfront.

“Much of the viewing is fragmenting across many different platforms and screens,”
Falco says. “We’re going to be there on every one of those screens. And we want to
make sure that Nielsen is there with us measuring, so we can go back to our advertising
partners and provide evidences of the ROI and the engagement they’re looking for.”

A few months after Turner joined Univision, Comcast’s NBCU hired media buyer
Mike Rosen to head up ad sales at Telemundo, putting two execs with little Spanishlanguage
market experience in charge of the two biggest networks in the category.

“It’s a good sign that the Hispanic market is attracting these individuals that may
not have worked in the space before, but these individuals personally realize the
importance of the Hispanic market and the growth opportunities that exist,” says
Da Costa of Wing.

Torres thinks the changes are more cyclical. “Things change, personnel change.
It’s like an agency—the heads of the agencies all change all of a sudden,” she
says. “Maybe it just happens to be that Univision and NBC are moving a little bit in the same time frame, but it kind of makes
sense when you think that Univision has a completely
new [management team]. Telemundo is
in the same vein. New ownership, Comcast, is
also trying to grow ratings and also trying to
grow revenue.”

0311 Cover Story Power Surge chart

The Man With the Plan

While Falco worked with Turner at NBC, he
says it’s not just about hiring someone he’s comfortable
with. “It’s hiring people I know have
a proven track record. I think Keith is clearly
one of the three best sales people I’ve ever seen
in the industry, along with [retired longtime
Fox ad sales head] Jon Nesvig and Joe Abruzzese
at Discovery,” Falco says. Among Turner’s
accomplishments is overseeing the first $3 billion
upfront in TV history while
at NBC. “And he did it twice,”
Falco says.

But media buyers say Turner
has things to learn about the
Hispanic market.

“I don’t think it’s an insurmountable
learning curve,” says
Torres. “[Turner] coming in and
selling the market is probably a
little bit less impactful as someone
who’s been in the market a
long time, who knows the market
a little bit better. He’s selling
programming. He knows how to
do that well.”

Torres expects Turner to have time to learn the market and gain credibility. “He
has instant credibility in the network that he’s selling,” she says. “Will I fully believe
in his complete assessment of the marketplace? Probably not. But there’s plenty of
infrastructure in that organization to give him the credibility that he needs. So while
I may not believe what he’s selling exactly, I believe in what he’s selling.”

Turner is confident about his ability to adapt to Spanish-language TV. “Randy uses
this great line about speaking television. It’s about sales, it’s about relationships, it’s
about television, it’s about broadcasting, it’s about brand,” he says. “The fact that it’s
Spanish-language, I don’t worry about that. I’m sure [Mike Rosen] doesn’t worry
about that either. We’ve been doing this long enough that it’s about TV advertising,
and that’s the same in any language.”

Turner says he didn’t know a lot of the members of the sales staff when he first
arrived at Univision. “The ones that I have met obviously I’ve been very impressed
with,” he says. “We did make some changes in the business development group,
we’ve given more of an ownership to the network sales group, so we did make
some changes. But we’ve got some really hungry sales people here that are really
passionate about this brand and about this company, so I
feel good about where we are as a division.”

Turner also hired Steve Mandala, who had run the Telemundo
sales business for Turner at NBC, as executive VP
of network sales. “So between he and Randy and I, we’re
putting the old team back together,” Turner says.

Falco and Turner departed NBC as it spiraled from dominance
to disaster. Turner was head of sales at the NFL before
rejoining Falco because of what he saw being built at
Univision. “Now, NBC’s in my
rear-view mirror,” Turner says.
“I worked there for 20 years,
I had a great career there. But
that’s yesterday’s news. The
new news is Univision and
where we’re going.”

The Language

Part of their job at Univision
will be educating potential clients
about the importance of
communicating with the Hispanic
market. “There’s a large
segment that believes in who
we are and what we’re doing,
and there’s still a big portion
of it that don’t get it yet. Our
job is to convince them otherwise,”
Turner says. After 30
years in the business, Turner
has relationships with many
decision-makers. “If I don’t
know the person behind the
door, I certainly know somebody
that does. And between Steve Mandala, Trisha Pray [executive VP for network
sales] and Roberto Ruiz [senior VP of strategy and insights], there’s a team
here that knows where to go.”

Turner says he has found out “how absolutely useless my two years of Spanish
in college were.” He says he’s currently working with a tutor to brush up on his
language skills. “I think it’s important. A lot of the business we do is with people
who speak English, but I think to understand the product and what’s on the
screen, I’m going to get my Spanish up to speed.”

It isn’t quite there yet, especially when it comes to using his Spanish to order
food in a restaurant. “I can’t eat spicy foods, so that hasn’t been an issue yet,” he
says, adding, “I do know how to say ‘cerveza.’”

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