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Televisa Wields Budget Ax In Wake Of Devalued Peso

Mighty Mexican media conglom Televisa is cutting costs and slashing jobs as the recent plunge in the peso makes itself felt.

Some 1,500 actors, technicians and workers have been pink-slipped as part of a general belt-tightening, company sources said.

Not missing a beat, upstart broadcasting rival TV Azteca executive president Moises Saba has announced that all Televisa talent who have been pink-slipped are welcome to apply for jobs with Televisa’s competitor.

The drastic measures at Televisa reached their dramatic peak Jan. 16, when Televisa-owned newspaper Summa announced its own demise, citing high production costs. The paper was launched as a sister publication to high-circulation Ovaciones last February.

Televisa also has closed down two of its three acting schools and the smallest of its three Mexico City production studios. The broadcaster also is slashing a number of shows on both TV and radio. One capital city radio station, XEX, saw 12 of its shows axed last week.

ECO cuts foreseen

In addition, the company has fired several executives and is considering dropping some of its numerous magazine titles, sources said. A 40% budget cut for international satellite news service ECO is foreseen, according to local press.

What is not clear is how much of the cost-cutting is due to the Dec. 20 devaluation, and how much to long-term policy. Victoria Santaella of New York brokers Serfin Securities said both are major factors.

“Since early last year, Televisa has been “getting out of businesses in which they’re not so profitable,” she said, citing a videocassette recording company sold a year ago.

Santaella thinks Televisa will weather the economic storm and register net profits of approximately $185 million in 1995, boosted by interest earned on upfront advertising sales. Such a sum would be substantially higher than 1994’s income (estimated at about $50 million), and roughly equal to 1993 results in peso terms.

‘Fundamentals strong’

“The fundamentals of the company are still very strong,” Santaella added. “The company will be in great shape for when times get better.”

Televisa has issued no official statement, but company employees said layoffs, including those of actors with exclusive contracts, were initiated before the peso took its 40% plunge.

Televisa had exclusive contracts with 650 actors, producers and technicians, but just 250 are being retained, said a Televisa actress on condition of anonymity.

Exclusive contracts, rigidly enforced, are said to involve retainers of anywhere from $10,000 a year for new talent to several hundred thousand dollars for established stars.

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