Univision rivals raise a red flag

Televisa's rival nets fret over Nielsen links

With bids for Univision due today, rival TV networks may be fretting that three potential winners of the Hispanic broadcaster also happen to control a big chunk of Nielsen Media Research.

Carlyle Group, KKR and Blackstone Group are part of a consortium called Valcon that recently acquired Nielsen parent VNU. Each is said to own 15%-20% of VNU.

The three have teamed with Bain Capital, Mexican broadcaster Televisa, Venezuelan broadcaster Venevision and Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment on a bid for Univision, which put itself up for sale early this year.

It’s likely to fetch about $12 billion.

“There’s only one measurement agency,” one network insider said. “The measurements are extremely important and sensitive. I think people could be concerned about a conflict of interest.”

A rep for Valcon in New York declined to comment. Reps for VNU and Nielsen weren’t immediately available.

It’s not clear how proactive the networks will be in lobbying regulators against the deal, should the Televisa consortium be accepted. Spinning was rampant Monday ahead of the bids. And the buyout firms’ purchase of VNU has been public for months.

The other bidding group includes Providence Equity, Madison Dearborn, Thomas H. Lee Partners, Texas Pacific Group and media mogul Haim Saban.

Thomas H. Lee, in fact, is also a part of Valcon.

Ironically, Univision and Nielsen have frequently been at odds. Univision at one point sued Nielsen to halt the use of Local People Meter service in Los Angeles. Its suit was dismissed.

Televisa group is widely expected to offer more, but it could face regulatory issues that might make Univision antsy, note people in the other camp. Sources close to high-level talks report some members of the Televisa-led consortium are not happy with Televisa’s strong-arm tactics in the negotiations.

Aside from the Nielsen issue, FCC regs limit foreign ownership of a U.S. broadcast outlet to 25%, which would cap Televisa and Venevision. Televisa has been vocal about its desire to control Univision, so the fine print of any agreement would have to be scrutinized.

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