MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s Grupo Televisa has widened claims in its lawsuit against U.S.’ Univision Communications, escalating the ongoing feud between the two Spanish-language companies.
Televisa exec VP Alfonso de Angoitia told analysts in a Friday conference call that the two nets were not talking and that Televisa has added two claims to the $1.5 million lawsuit filed in May over allegedly unpaid back royalties in California court.
De Angoitia said Univision had altered programs “in ways not permitted” by an agreement over rebroadcasts of soccer programs.
He also charged that Univision had violated an agreement to give Televisa unsold ad time.
“They have unilaterally refused to broadcast certain Televisa advertising,” de Angoitia said.
And the exec expects to receive only $105 million in royalty payments from Univision this year, down from a previous estimate of $115 million.
Univision had not responded yet to Televisa’s original lawsuit, de Angointia said. “We are waiting to see.”
Univision has denied any breach of contract.
When suit was filed, Televisa’s chairman and CEO Emilio Azcarraga Jean and de Angoitia both resigned from the Univision board.
Not clear is whether the dispute is an attempt by Televisa to find a way to renegotiate its 25-year exclusive programming supply accord first signed in 1992 and revised in late 2001. Televisa programming fills most of Univision’s primetime in exchange for a cut of Univision’s revenue.
Another theory centers on a battle for control. Televisa owns 9.3% of Univision, and suit followed announcement that Univision chairman Jerry Perenchio, who owns most of the voting stock, upped Ray Rodriguez to corporate prexy without input from either Azcarraga or Gustavo Cisneros, another major shareholder via Venezuelan broadcaster Venevision.
Azcarraga has made no secret of his desire to acquire Univision, the network co-founded by his father Emilio Azcarraga Milmo, Perenchio and Cisneros. Unlike the more mature Mexican market, the U.S. Hispanic market is growing fast, with burgeoning purchasing power.
Nets also have an unresolved feud over rights to offer Televisa content through the Internet. They have agreed not to discuss the issue until 2006 and have a temporary agreement in place over news and soccer content, de Angoitia said.
The latest development could potentially complicate Univision’s plans to launch an original late-night talk show.
In a recent interview with Variety, Alina Falcon, president of the flagship Univision Network, said Televisa talent have continued to appear on Univision talkers and variety shows.
However, Televisa brass have put the kibosh on appearances by its talent in the past — and the programming accord does not cover promotions.
A Univision talker would depend on foreign talent since Univision’s own production efforts are concentrated in news, sports and other nonfiction formats.
In a response to an internal directive, fewer Televisa actors than expected were on hand at Univision’s February music kudocast “Premio lo Nuestro.” Televisa star wattage was significantly diminished at Univision’s upfront presentation in New York in May.
(Mary Sutter in Miami contributed to this report.)