Talent in crossfire

Televisa bans participation in Univision fare

HOLLYWOOD — Televisa, Mexico’s largest broadcaster, has banned all talent under its contracts from appearing on leading U.S. Hispanic net Univision.

The order, issued by Televisa talent general manager Alejandro Benitez, was sent upon the announcement of Ray Rodriguez’s promotion to prexy-chief operating officer of Univision Communications (Daily Variety, Feb 10).

Sent to all producers and some key execs at Univision, the memo gave no reason for the order.

But reports have surfaced that Televisa and Venevision, which represent nearly a 25% share in the Los Angeles-based media company, are upset with Rodriguez’s promotion. Televisa chairman-CEO Emilio Azcarraga Jean and Gustavo Cisneros, chief of Venevision parent company Cisneros Group of Venezuela, were not consulted by Univision chairman-CEO A. Jerrold Perenchio about Rodriguez’s elevation.

The position, which has been vacant for nearly five years, puts Rodriguez in line to replace Perenchio, in his mid-70s, when he retires.

“Azcarraga Jean and Cisneros want the position to be filled through a more rigorous selection process,” said a person close to the discussion. “This is a public company after all and they don’t feel that Rodriguez has enough caliber to lead the company in such an increasingly competitive market.”

Televisa, which owns a 10.9% stake in Univision, provides Univision’s programming staple and top ratings draw — telenovelas. Its programming supply pact with Univision expires in 2017. Televisa talent often appears on Univision to plug the sudsers or host its variety shows.

Venevision, which has a 13.4% stake in Univision, provides the net with primetime programming.

The order has had an immediate impact on the upcoming Univision kudocast of the 17th annual “Premios lo nuestro de la musica,” slated to air Feb. 24. Univision has been scrambling to replace the presenters, many of whom were Televisa telenovela stars. Twenty-three artists including host Eugenio Derbez, all under contract with Televisa, have pulled out of the show.

Benitez was not available for comment.

“The company does not comment on confidential matters concerning its relationship with its partners,” said a Univision rep.

Televisa declined to comment.

Although Televisa and Cisneros, via Venevision, own stakes in Univision, Perenchio has majority control of the voting stock. The stock is trading very near its 52-week low. Full-year financial results of Univision are scheduled for release Feb. 28.

(Mary Sutter in Miami contributed to this report.)

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