Univision, the dominant U.S. Spanish-language network, devoted almost all of its Wednesday upfront presentation to advertisers—and an ensuing press conference—to touting its new programming and its sister networks Telefutura and Galavision, declining to comment on the fact that the network is currently up for sale.
The company, which is being closely watched by both advertisers and investors, announced a new season and a spinoff of its smash dancing reality hit Bailando Por Un Sueno (Dancing for a Dream), along with several new telenovelas, a reality series about a beauty pageant, a new sitcom, a new game show and other programming for Univision and its sister networks Telefutura and Galavision.
“The sale has nothing to do with what’s on the air,” said Univision Communications President and COO Ray Rodriguez in response to a question about how the impending sale affected advertisers’ desire to buy ads during Univision programming. “It’s a corporate thing. Not a programming thing or a viewer thing.”
Univision, which regularly claims 75% of U.S. Hispanic viewers, is currently readying for what could be a heated bidding war in which analysts predict the company could go for as much as $12 billion. Grupo Televisa, the Mexican programmer that programs more than three quarters of Univision’s prime time novelas and owns 11% of the company, has partnered with private equity groups—including Bill Gates’ firm Cascade Investment—to bid for the company.
Univision increasingly gained the interest and business of national advertisers in the past year, after it began to be rated as part of the Nielsen Television Index (NTI) along with the English-language broadcast networks, rather than being rated with a separate Nielsen Hispanic Television Index (NHTI). Since then, the network says it beat ABC, CBS, NBC or Fox in the 18-34 demo one out of every two nights.
Bailando, in which celebrities dance with average Joes who need a cash prize to make a life dream come true, outranked both NBC and CBS with adults 18-34 for its 8-11 p.m. finale in February, making the Hispanic network third in the demo for the night. It will be back for a second season, along with Cantando Por Un Sueno, which will follow the same format, except with singing.
Univision also announced several new prime time telenovelas, including Heridas de Amor (Wounds of Love) and Duelo de Pasiones (Duel of Passions). Other new programming on the network includes a 10 p.m. sitcom, !Que Madre, Tan Padre!, a weekday game show, !Buenas Tardes!, and a weekend prime time beauty pageant reality show, Belleza Latina.
They were unveiled, along with new novelas, sports and other programming for Televisa and Galavision, at a 90-minute upfront event that concluded with a performance by Enrique Iglesias. Save for the advertiser question, Rodriguez was instructed by publicists at a post-event press conference not to answer any questions on the sale. Instead, he drew attention to the network’s ratings successes of late.
“We have a lot of momentum, and we fully expect to take advantage of that,” he said. “It becomes easier and easier as people realize this phenomenon that is Spanish-language TV.”
Asked why multiplatform advertising opportunities did not play a bigger role in the network’s presentation, Rodriguez said that Univision and Televisa are engaged in a “dispute” as to which of them has the digital rights to their programming and that, until they resolve the issue, Univision cannot put its popular novelas on the Internet.
Rodriguez went on to say that resolving the dispute and availing Univision content on multiple platforms were not currently big priorities for the company.
“It’s a lot easier to watch TV on TV than it is on the Internet,” he said. “So it’s not a front-burner issue at all. It’s a miniscule thing right now. It’s not a priority, so we don’t need to deal with it.”