Univision Affair Has Telenovela Feel


The Univision auction is reminding some observers of the network’s most popular fare. The Associated Press, The Economist and The New York Times have each compared the proceedings to a telenovela. The sale features a number of stock characters in any novela: the powerful but aging patriarch, the aspiring young challenger and the mysterious outsider. As with many ongoing soap operas, this story also has no clear end in sight.

In a regulatory filing, Televisa made clear its intention to sell its stake in Univision and strike out on its own. Univision responded in a regulatory filing and press release of its own: “The termination of the participation agreement referenced in Televisa’s filing will have no impact on Univision’s business or on the pending merger agreement with the investor group.”

But Univision's assertion may be somewhat disingenuous: An expansion of Televisa's activities in the U.S. would have some impact on Univision's business, although the nature and size of the impact is unclear.

Mexico's Radio Formula reported this week that Televisa plans to launch an all-telenovela channel, which would be broadcast in some markets such as Los Angeles and operate as a cable network in others. Hispanic Television Update contacted station owners and major cable systems, but was unable to confirm evidence of any such move.

Univision maintains that the Program Licensing Agreement prevents Televisa from airing even second-run telenovelas in the United States. The PLA is currently the focus of an ongoing legal dispute in federal court. Univision and Televisa were ordered by Judge Audrey Collins to meet with a retired judge on June 19 and July 6 in the hopes of reaching a settlement. A planned "telephonic status conference" for July 17 was “vacated.”