Hispanic business lures Anglo media

Clear Channel, among others, is said to be eyeing Univision
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Is Clear Channel preparing to buy Univision? Sources say Clear Channel would love to add the nation's No. 1 Spanish-language network to its portfolio of media assets. But last week, despite speculation to the contrary, there didn't appear to be any ongoing acquisition talks between the two companies.

It's very likely that, when Univision chairman Jerry Perenchio decides to sell-and many believe it's just a matter of time-there will be many interested parties. After all, the U.S. Hispanic community is the fastest-growing segment of the population. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic sector will be largest minority group by 2005 and is projected to reach 42.4 million by 2010.

Hispanics now have spending power estimated at close to $400 billion annually. Currently, Spanish-language TV advertising in the U.S. is about $1 billion. Pappas Broadcasting's Harry Pappas expects that market grow at an annual clip of 15% for the foreseeable future.

And Pappas has done his homework. Two months ago, he and TV Azteca, the Mexico-based broadcaster, announced plans to launch a third U.S. Hispanic TV network by second quarter 2001.

As to reports that Clear Channel wants to buy Univision, Pappas hopes they're true. "That would have positive impact" on his own plans, he said, as another indication of just how attractive the Hispanic business is to mainstream media companies.

Clear Channel has already shown a keen interest in this market with its 26% stake in Hispanic Broadcasting Corp., the largest U.S. Spanish-language radio broadcaster.

Some wonder whether if stake might be a hindrance at regulatory-approval time if Clear Channel tries to buy Univision. If the Democrats retain the White House, many believe, both the FCC and Department of Justice would move to nix the deal on antitrust grounds-especially since Anglos and not Hispanics control Hispanic Broadcasting.

One thing is certain, sources say: When Univision does go on the block, "the bidding will be vigorous," as one Wall Street analyst puts it. "All the big media companies will at least kick the tires," says another.