Aggressive revenue push aimed at competitor

MEXICO CITY — TV Azteca, Mexico’s second-largest broadcaster, is looking to make a move on decade-old rival Televisa: On Tuesday, it will up 2004 ad rates by 5%-20%.

Insiders said the hike is aimed at pressuring Televisa into a rise — an aggressive revenue move as Azteca traditionally adjusts its rates based on Televisa’s.

New, proactive figures were announced at an upfront sales event hosted by Azteca, the first of its kind in Mexico.

“We don’t like to be in second place,” said Azteca chairman-CEO Ricardo Salinas Pliego, acknowledging that Azteca drags in the ratings, but stressing that even poorly rated shows can be profitable.

Azteca scores roughly 30% of ad sales, with Televisa dominating the market. But Azteca, which had $644 million in sales last year, is hoping to narrow the gap.

The key, Azteca brass said, is to add clients, currently around 400. The company said that it began a massive sales push Wednesday.

Head of ad sales Gustavo Guzman said Azteca was setting a sales growth target of 20% for next year, although insiders said smaller increases are more realistic. Rate hikes will be 5% for primetime slots, with sliding increases for non-peak hours.

Net said it expects a healthy topline boost from the 2004 Athens Olympics, which are likely to feature popular Mexican sprinter Ana Guevara.

Televisa has yet to announce its rates for 2004.

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